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Universal’s buddy-cop picture Ride Along grossed a solid $1.1 million as it began rolling out in theaters at 8 p.m. Thursday, on the eve of the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
The $25 million movie is expected to beat Paramount’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with a four-day debut in the low- to mid-$30 million range, marking a major win for Kevin Hart as he stars for the first time as a comedy lead. Last fall, Universal’s The Best Man Holiday took in $750,000 on Thursday night on its way to a three-day debut of $30.1 million.
Jack Ryan took in $330,000 as it rolled out at 9 p.m. Thursday, on par with Ron Howard‘s recent Formula One drama Rush. Tracking for the pic has been soft, but it didn’t expect to do big business Thursday night, since it is likely to appeal to an older crowd.
Ride Along stars Hart opposite Ice Cube and was directed by Tim Story (Think Like a Man). Last year, Hart took the box office by storm with stand-up comedy-concert pic Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, which took in north of $32 million. Ride Along is sparking the strongest interest among young men.
Universal should also take the No. 2 spot at the holiday box office with holdover Lone Survivor, which could gross $30 million for the four-day weekend, thanks to a continued strong showing in America’s heartland.
Director Kenneth Branagh‘s Jack Ryan — starring Chris Pine as the iconic character created by author Tom Clancy — is expected to post a four-day debut in the $15 million to $19 million range.
The studio and partner Skydance Productions are looking to the $60 million film to resurrect Paramount’s marquee spy franchise. Jack Ryan originally was 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, which also is getting a run in Imax theaters, 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. Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck as the title character, debuted to $31.2 million.
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.
That’s not to mention a slew of films going back into theaters after earning top Oscar nominations — Gravity, Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club. They’ll have to compete for award-minded moviegoers with holdovers American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Philomena and Nebraska, which also landed Oscar best picture nods.
Nut Job, tipped to gross in the $15 million range for the four-day weekend, is voiced by Will Arnett and 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 animated feature will face competition from Disney’s runaway hit Frozen, which continues to be a player nearly two months into its run.
Devil’s Due is expected to post a four-day gross in the $7 million-plus range, which would match its budget. Still, that would be on the low side for a horror film. From 20th Century Fox, the film stars Allison Miller and Zach Gilford as a couple who experience strange and supernatural events as they are expecting their first child.
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