Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty finally went wide this weekend

After nearly a month in limited release, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (review) finally went wide this weekend and it grossed $24 million to top the weekend box office. The film now has a $29 million cume. All eyes were on this one, with the big question being whether critical acclaim and film punditry would translate into mainstream interest. Obviously the current ‘does the movie promote torture?’ controversy brought the film all kinds of free publicity, but I’d argue it scared off just as many as it brought it. By the way, no it doesn’t endorse torture because… well just watch the movie again (essay 01/essay 02)!

Anyway, the closest comparison is the Martin Luther King Day Jr. weekend wide-release debut of Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down eleven years ago next weekend, which pulled in $33 million over four days and $28 million over Fri-Sun. The ‘hunt for Bin Laden’ film’s debut is a bit lower, especially when inflation is accounted for (BHD’s 3-day total is around $38 million in 2013 dollars), but the Scott picture was pretty much a nonstop action picture while Bigelow’s is an icy and often cold 2.5 hour procedural where even the climactic action sequence is meant to disturb more than excite. The film played 59% male and 62% over 30. Sony did a great job selling this one somewhat falsely as a triumphant action drama, although they didn’t seem to make as much of an effort to bring in females for what is indeed a female-centric character drama (Jessica Chastain is terrific here).

Despite a merely okay 2.6x weekend multiplier, expect pretty strong legs as this becomes the defacto water-cooler Oscar contender (Oscar nomination essay 01/Oscar nomination essay 02), the one everyone has to see in order to participate in the national dialogue.

To read more box office results go to Mendelson’s Memos

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