Box Office Report: 'Zero Dark Thirty' Soars in New York and Los Angeles

5:28 PM PST 12/19/2012 by Pamela McClintock
"Zero Dark Thirty"

The controversial film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden is No. 1 in all five theaters where it opened Wednesday; the Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen comedy "Guilt Trip" is struggling.

Kathryn Bigelow's high-profile Zero Dark Thirty is off to a strong start at the holiday box office, even as Washington lawmakers take it to task.

Opening on Wednesday in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles, the film was No. 1 in all five locations by late afternoon, pacing ahead of films including Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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Box-office observers expect Zero Dark Thirty to score an impressive opening-day theater average of roughly $34,000, well ahead of the $9,000 or $10,000 that Sony was expecting.

Sony is handling the domestic release of the film, which chronicles the CIA's decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden and the Navy SEALs raid that led to his death. An awards front-runner, Zero Dark Thirty was financed by Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures.

Just as the critically acclaimed film was hitting theaters, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators sent a letter Wednesday to Sony calling the picture “grossly inaccurate and misleading” for suggesting that intelligence obtained through torture played a role in locating bin Laden.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the other lawmakers signing the letter want the studio to add a disclaimer on the film.

Bigelow and Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Mark Boal -- the team behind The Hurt Locker -- have said people are misinterpreting the torture scenes in the film.

Zero Dark Thirty expands nationwide Jan. 11.

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Opening everywhere Wednesday were Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen comedy The Guilt Trip and Disney/Pixar's 3D rerelease of Monsters, Inc. -- the first of eight nationwide Christmas releases.

Guilt Trip, from Paramount, is struggling out of the gate. Directed by Anne Fletcher, it is expected to gross $1 million on Wednesday for a five-day opening in the $7 million-to-$8.5 million range.

Paramount was anticipating a slow start but is hoping the film enjoys the strong multiples possible during the year-end holidays, when a film ultimately can gross six to eight times its opening number. In 2007, Warner Bros.' comedy P.S. I Love You opened to $6.5 million over the Dec. 21-23 weekend. The film cumed $53.7 million, an eight multiple; usually, a four multiple is considered good.

Guilt Trip marks Streisand's first lead role since The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996. The movie, which has received poor reviews, cost $40 million to produce.

Monsters, Inc. has a shot at beating Guilt Trip on Wednesday and is eyeing a five-day debut in the $12 million to $15 million range.

Hobbit, which crossed the $100 million mark Tuesday, its fifth day in domestic release, easily will come in No. 1 on Wednesday.

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