Box Office: Ride Along Draws Huge Crowds, Sets New January Opening Record

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday audiences were in the mood to laugh. Universal release, Ride Along, with the paring of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart did the trick and did big business overall. So good, in fact, that the comedy set a new opening record for the month of January. Previous record holder was the found-footage release Cloverfield. Ride Along‘s success meant other new releases had to suffer a devastating fate of loserdom.

Playing at 2,663 theaters, the Ice Cube/Kevin Hart comedy made an estimated $41.6 million from Friday through Sunday, and $48.1 million overall if including the MLK holiday. Comparatively, Ride Along was did about $1.5 million better than Cloverfield‘s $40.1 million back in 2008. In terms of comedies, Ride Along has the best performing opening since Ted ($54.2 million) back in June 2012. Both are Universal Pictures releases.

Even before its release date a sequel talks had already begun for Ride Along. Its opening weekend performance most assuredly means that we can expect another ride along in a few years. Credit goes to the marketing guys behind the film’s promotion ensuring that the ads include most of the film’s best laughs, including Kevin Hart’s mishandling of a shotgun. Ice Cube has been a fixture in films and TV thanks to films like Friday and Are We There Yet?. But it may be Hart’s rising fanbase from his stand-up comedy and his supporting work in comedies like Think Like a Man that may have been the biggest drawing factor for audiences. And considering the film’s broad premise of pairing two guys who are clearly mismatched but can delivers laughs, then you have a winning combination when it comes to attracting an audience.

At current projections Ride Along should finish with more than $100 million by the end of its run in domestic release.

Slipping to second this weekend was another Universal Pictures release, Lone Survivor, with $22.1 million over the four-day weekend. With positive word-of-mouth, this Peter Berg film has made it okay to talk about patriotism around the water cooler. The Afghanistan-set war thriller about Operation Red Wing has earned close to $80 million after two weeks in wide release.

Animated comedy The Nut Job opened in third place this weekend with a surprisingly strong $19.4 million. That’s the second-highest debut yet for Open Road Films (just behind 2012’s The Grey) and is a noticeable improvement over last fall’s animated Free Birds ($15.8 million).

The $19 million opening is good, but the animated release only has a few weeks until it gets competition in the form of The Lego Movie on February 7th.

Paramount’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opened to an estimated $15.6 million. That was enough for the previously slotted December release to finish fourth. As the fifth Jack Ryan movie – and the first with Chris Pine as its lead star – its close to $16 million opening is slightly lower than what The Hunt For Red October made back in 1990, at a time when movie tickets didn’t cost as much as they do now.

Disney’s Frozen, which opened in theaters around Thanksgiving last year, continues to be a phenom. In its eighth weekend it is still playing to large crowds and its drop from weeks seven to eight was only 20 percent. Earnings are estimated to be $11.9 million to bring its domestic total to more than $336.9 million.

Usually, horror movies are easy hits that usually finish at or near the top of box office. That wasn’t the case with seventh place finisher Devil’s Due. It couldn’t even finish with double-digit earnings, instead settling for $8.4 million. This, plus the disappointing performance of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, leads me to suspect that January isn’t that great a month for horror titles, supernatural or otherwise. Or maybe it’s just the whole found-footage aspect, since last year’s Mama seemed to be a minor hit for Universal.

With Oscar nominations going out and Golden Globe winners selected, a number of films got a sizable boost in attendance. The biggest was Best Picture nominee American Hustle with $9.9 million to bring its overall total to $115.7 million. The remainder of the top ten is filled with other Oscar hopefuls, including August: Osage County ($7.4 million), The Wolf of Wall Street ($7.1 million), and Her ($4.02 million). Other films getting re-released after Oscar nominations were announced include Gravity ($1.87 million at 944 theaters) and 12 Years a Slave; it’s overall total passed $40 million over the weekend.

Full top ten breakdown (Friday-Sunday) after the break.

1. Ride Along (Universal) – $41,600,000
2. Lone Survivor (Universal) – $22,059,000 ($72,868,000)
3. The Nut Job (Open Road Films) – $19,405,000
4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount) – $15,580,000
5. Frozen (Buena Vista) – $11,858,00 ($332,490,000)
6. American Hustle (Sony) – $9,850,000 ($115,681,000)
7. Devil’s Due (Fox) – $8,380,000
8. August: Osage County (The Weinstein Company) – $7,365,000 ($17,954,000)
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount) – $7,054,000 ($89,831,000)
10. Her (Warner Bros.) – $4,020,000 ($14,981,000)

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