After weeks of controversy in limited release, Sony’s $40 million Osama Bin Laden assassination film, Zero Dark Thirty, shot into first place with $24.0 million this weekend following five Oscar nominations (though not one for director Kathryn Bigelow) and an expansion from 60 to 2,937 theaters. After four weekends, the well-reviewed drama has earned $29.5 million total, and given its omnipresence during awards season, there’s no telling how high it could ultimately climb. $100 million is certainly not out of the question.
Zero Dark Thirty, which earned an “A-” CinemaScore, finished in the same range as Act of Valor, another recent Navy SEAL film, which garnered $24.5 million in its opening weekend in February 2012. The film is already far bigger than Kathryn Bigelow’s last directorial effort, The Hurt Locker, which found $17.7 million in 2009, and it will easily surpass both K-19: The Widowmaker ($35.2 million) and Point Break ($43.2 million) as the biggest hit of her career. Zero Dark Thirty played mostly to older males — according to Sony, 59 percent of its audience was male, and 62 percent was older than 30. Despite awful reviews, Open Road Films’ $2.5 million horror spoof A Haunted House finished in second place with a surprisingly strong $18.8 million from 2,160 theaters. The comedy’s $8,412 per theater average was the best in the entire Top 10 — ahead of even Zero Dark Thirty‘s $8,172 average.