Box Office: 'Lone Survivor,' 'Wolf of Wall Street' Spark Red State vs. Blue State Battle

Wolf of Wall Street Lone Survivor Split - H 2014
Paramount Pictures; Universal

Wolf of Wall Street Lone Survivor Split - H 2014

UPDATED: The Navy SEALs battle is doing big business in America's heartland as it expands nationwide and could earn a stellar $28 million to $30 million for the weekend; "August: Osage County" is beating "Her" and big-budget epic "Hercules."

The North American box office is turning into a red state vs. blue state battle, with Thursday box office results showing Peter Berg's war drama Lone Survivor in a socio-economic split with Martin Scorsese's holdover The Wolf of Wall Street.

PHOTOS: Mark Wahlberg: 'Lone Survivor' Actor's Road From Movie Star to Mogul

The two films ended the day in a near dead-heat, with Lone Survivor narrowly prevailing. The patriotic-themed film is doing so well that box office now insiders now believe it could earn $28 million to $30 million for the weekend, far more than expected and easily enough to topple Frozen, The Wolf of Wall Street and other films.

Expanding nationwide at 8 p.m. after playing exclusively in New York and Los Angeles since Christmas, Lone Survivor's top theaters are in states including Texas, Utah, Colorado, Georgia, Utah, Nevada and Virginia. (It's also doing well in San Diego, a military town.) Universal is releasing Lone Survivor in North America and in select foreign markets.

Lone Survivor took in $1.54 million Thursday to top the box office chart, compared to $1.46 million for The Wolf of Wall Street, which continues to see its biggest returns on the two coasts, as well as in Canada. (Not one of Wolf's top 20 theaters on Thursday were in America's heartland.)

Scorsese's film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as bad boy Wall Street broker and con-man Jordan Belfort. The R-rated film -- earning a strong $69.6 million to date -- has sparked widespread debate and controversy for its nonstop hedonism, drugs and sex.

If Lone Survivor  grosses north of $20 million for the weekend as predicted, it will be No. 1 ahead of Frozen, The Wolf of Wall Street and other players. Based on Marcus Luttrell's memoir, the film stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster as four Navy SEALs on a mission in Afghanistan. Lone Survivor did well in its awards-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles, but box office observers expect the film to see its strongest traffic in red states.

PHOTOS: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio Spill Candid Stories on the Making of 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Lone Survivor was independently financed for north of $40 million.

Also expanding nationwide on Friday are John Wells' August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and Spike Jonze's Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. So far, Osage County is pacing ahead of Her even though it is in fewer theaters (905 versus 1,729).

The big loser of the weekend looks to be Millennium Films' The Legend of Hercules, distributed in the U.S. by Summit Entertainment. The epic may have trouble clearing $9 million or $10 million in its domestic debut, despite a $70 million production budget.