Box Office: 'Ride Along' Nabs Top MLK Weekend Opening of All-Time

8:57 AM PST 01/19/2014 by Pamela McClintock

UPDATED: "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" fails to connect with younger moviegoers, while animated pic "Nut Job" does better than expected; Golden Globe winner "American Hustle" enjoys biggest boost of any Oscar best picture nominee.

Continuing to outperform expectations, Kevin Hart and Ice Cube buddy cop comedy Ride Along is turning in the best performance of all-time for the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The Universal pic, cementing Hart's rising star status, ended Sunday with a three-day gross of $41.2 million and is expected to hit $48 million or more for the four-days.

Final numbers for the long holiday weekend will be released Monday morning.

Cloverfield (2008) was the previous MLK record-holder with a three-day gross of $40.1 million and four-day gross of $46.1 million. Ride Along also scored the top opening for the month of January (three day) and one of the best debuts ever for an African-American comedy, according to Universal.

Ride Along, costing a modest $25 million to make and nabbing an A CinemaScore, marks Hart's first turn as a comedy lead. The film was fueled by a younger, ethnic audience. African-Americans made up 50 percent of ticket buyers, followed by Hispanics (30 percent) and Caucasians (12 percent). Moviegoers under the age of 25 made up 46 percent of the audience.

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Universal dominated the weekend between Ride Along and Peter Berg's Afghanistan war drama Lone Survivor. Placing No. 2, Lone Survivor posted a three-day gross of $23.2 million and a projected four-day gross of $27.6 million, pushing its domestic total to $78.4 million through Monday. The patriotic-themed pic features an ensemble cast led by Mark Wahlberg.

New animated family film The Nut Job, voiced by Will Arnett, is doing better business than expected, grossing  $20.6 million for the three-day weekend and a projected $27.2 million for the four days.

It is the first new animated offering since Disney's hit Frozen, which was released at Thanksgiving, and marks the top opening of all time for Open Road Films, as well as the top opening for a non-studio animated film (Coraline was the previous record-holder with $16.8 million).

Nut Job follows the adventures of a squirrel who plans to rob the town's biggest nut shop in order to help his friends survive the winter. The movie, costing $30 million after tax breaks, was made by ToonBox, Korean partner Redrover in association with Gulfstream Pictures. Open Road acquired U.S. rights and chipped in part of the marketing budget. Nut Job is ToonBox's first feature film.

Kenneth Branagh's Jack Ryan, starring Chris Pine as the iconic character created by author Tom Clancy, failed to connect with younger audiences, resulting in a so-so three-day gross of $17.2 million and projected four-day gross of $20.4 million. Nearly 40 percent of the North American audience was over the age of 50.

The movie did better overseas, where it opened to $22.2 from its first 31 countries, led by China with $9.5 million. Based on its early performance, Jack Ryan will have to do big business overseas if Paramount is to make another film.

The title, with a global opening gross of $40.2 million, was produced for $60 million by Paramount and partner Skydance productions. The movie was originally set to open Christmas Day, but its release was pushed back to make room for fellow Paramount film The Wolf of Wall Street.

Jack Ryan opens more than a decade after the last film in the franchise, The Sum of All Fears, played in theaters and more than two decades after The Hunt for Red October launched the film series, meaning younger moviegoers aren't familiar with the brand.

Also starring Branagh, Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, Jack Ryan opens day-and-date in 31 international territories, including key markets China, Australia, Korea, Mexico and Russia, where the film is set. This time out, the analyst-turned-agent is caught between his handler, his fiancee and a fearsome Russian oligarch.

Both Nut Job and Jack Ryan received a B CinemaScore.

The weekend's fourth new entry, 20th Century Fox's $7 million horror pic Devil's Due, took in a tepid $8.5 million for the three days for a projected four-day gross of $9.5 million. The R-rated pic nearly flunked with a D+ CinemaScore, placed No. 7, behind Frozen and awards darling. American Hustle.

Devil's Due stars Allison Miller and Zach Gilford as a couple who experience strange and supernatural events as they are expecting their first child. Overseas, it took in $2 million from six markets, including $1.5 million in the U.K., and putting its global debut at $11 million.

Sony's American Hustle surged following its best picture win at last weekend's Golden Globes ceremony and after picking up top Oscar nominations on Thursday (on Saturday night, the movie took top honors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards).

David O. Russell's period pic, tying with Gravity for the most Oscar nods (10), took in north of $10.6 million for the three-day weekend -- up a staggering 28 percent from last weekend. It's expected to gross $12.7 million for the four-day weekend, putting its domestic total to nearly $120 million.

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The Weinstein Co.'s August: Osage County is also enjoying a bump from Oscar nominations for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (it didn't earn a best picture nod). John Wells' adaptation of the stage play earned $7.6 million for the weekend, up 6 percent from last weekend. It is projected to earn $9.5 million for the four-days, putting its domestic total at $19.8 million and coming in No. 8.

Osage County came in just ahead of Martin Scorsese's best picture nominee Wolf of Wall Street, which was down just 15 percent from last weekend, grossing $7.5 million for the three-days. The projected four-day gross is $8.9 million for a domestic total of $91.7 million for Paramount and Red Granite Pictures.

Internationally, Wolf made its first major push in Europe after a stellar run in France. The movie debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. with $7.6 million (Universal is handling the movie in a number of international markets, including the U.K.), pushing its early foreign total to $58 million and worldwide total to $148.3 million.

Best picture nominee Her saw less of a bump, grossing $4.1 million for the three-days domestically, down 24 percent. The Warner Bros. film is expected to gross $4.8 million for the four-days.

Other top Oscar contenders all but done with their theatrical runs were rereleased over the weekend, including Gravity, Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club. Gravity is expected to turn in $2.2 million for the four days, followed by 12 Years with $1.8 million.

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