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'Zero Dark Thirty' draws a crowd

The movie dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden has been criticized in Washington, but got off to a strong start in limited release, making $410,000 over the weekend in five theaters.

December 24, 2012
  • Gollum, performed by Andy Serkis in the fantasy adventure movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
Gollum, performed by Andy Serkis in the fantasy adventure movie "The… (Warner Bros. )

The backlash in Washington over "Zero Dark Thirty" didn't reach the box office, as Kathryn Bigelow's CIA thriller got off to an excellent start in limited release.

Playing in five theaters, the film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden grossed $410,000 over the weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. That amounts to a robust per-theater average of $82,000 — the fourth highest of the year for a movie in limited release, behind "The Master," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Lincoln."

The movie, which Sony opened Wednesday in an effort to spread positive word of mouth about the picture before the crowded weekend, has now collected $639,000 in all.

The well-reviewed film has been on a roller coaster ride over the last month, being named best picture of the year by a handful of critics groups while facing criticism from some top government officials. On Friday, Michael Morell, acting director of the CIA, said the movie gives the false impression that "enhanced interrogation techniques" — a.k.a. torture — helped to find Bin Laden. Morell's condemnation of the movie came only days after a trio of U.S. senators complained the film was "grossly inaccurate."

"Zero Dark Thirty" will expand to 60 theaters in 11 markets Jan. 4 before debuting nationwide Jan. 11.

Also debuting in limited release over the weekend was "Amour," the French Palme d'Or-winning film about an elderly couple in declining health. Sony Pictures Classics debuted the film in three locations Wednesday, though over the weekend it grossed $70,662 for a solid $23,554 per-theater average.

Audiences were less interested in "The Impossible," a drama about a family torn apart by the 2004 Thailand tsunami. The Summit Entertainment movie, which has generated award buzz for its star Naomi Watts, did not fare particularly well at the box office this weekend, selling $138,750 worth of tickets in 15 theaters. With a weak per-theater average of $9,250, it doesn't appear moviegoers were swayed by the film's overwhelmingly positive reviews.

"On the Road," an adaptation of Jack Kerouac's classic road trip book, performed only slightly better. Despite the fact that the film's supporting player and "Twilight" star Kristen Stewart heavily promoted it, the IFC film grossed just $41,600 over the weekend. Playing in four theaters, the per-location average was an underwhelming $10,400.

Amy Kaufman

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