Mama Bo
Credit: Universal Pictures

As reported yesterday, Jessica Chastain accomplished the rare feat of simultaneously starring in both the number one and number two movies in the country this weekend (not to mention, crushing two new releases in the process), and that stayed true over the extended holiday frame.

Over the four-day weekend, Mama scared up a tremendous $33 million (its three-day cume was adjusted up to $28.5 million), making the $15 million film a huge winner for Universal. Horror movies play particularly well in January — just two weeks ago Texas Chainsaw 3D topped the chart — but Mama had a lot working in its favor. Its female protagonist (Chastain) and PG-13 rating drew young women into the theater, as 61 percent of the opening weekend audience was female, and 63 percent were below the age of 25. The cachet of exec-producer Guillermo Del Toro also brought cinephiles through the doors.

Mama debuted in 2,647 theaters, where it earned a very healthy $12,480 average, but given the film’s weak “B-” CinemaScore grade and the horror genre’s frontloaded nature, it seems likely that Mama will nosedive from here. It may perform in the same range as last October’s Paranormal Activity 4, which opened with $29.0 million in its first three days on the way to $53.9 million total.

Chastain’s other entry, Zero Dark Thirty, scored $18.7 million over the holiday weekend ($15.8 million over three days), which brings Sony’s $40 million Osama Bin Laden drama to $57.0 million total. With awards buzz and controversy (over both torture scenes and Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar snub) driving ticket sales, Zero Dark Thirty seems headed for a finish in the $100 million range.

Silver Linings Playbook finished in third place following its expansion from 810 to 2,523 theaters, where it earned $13 million and a $5,160 theater average. Impressively, Playbook had already earned $44 million heading into the weekend in nine weeks of limited release. The Weinstein Co. had originally planned to open Silver Linings Playbook in wide release, but due to poor tracking, the studio opted to platform the film instead — a strategy that has paid off in spades. Silver Linings Playbook has earned exemplary word-of-mouth (audiences issued it an “A-” CinemaScore), and with continued goodwill and awards buzz lifting business, it may also climb to $100 million. (If both Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook reach $100 million, then seven out of the nine Oscar nominees for Best Picture will have hit that milestone.)

In fourth place, Warner Bros.’ Sean Penn/Josh Brolin million crime drama Gangster Squad fell 40 percent (a substantial drop given the fact that this weekend includes an extra day) to $10.3 million, giving the period action flick a weak $33.4 million total against a $60 million budget. Supporting star Ryan Gosling attracted much of the publicity in the lead-up to Gangster Squad‘s release, but he has yet to demonstrate real drawing power at the box office. Gosling’s most successful releases appeal, unsurprisingly, to women. Crazy, Stupid, Love earned $84.4 million in 2011, while The Notebook earned $81 million in 2004.

Last weekend’s top new release, A Haunted House, dropped by a hefty 46 percent into fifth place with $9.7 million. The poorly reviewed horror spoof has grossed $31.3 million against a teensy $2.5 million budget after 11 day, making it a huge winner for distributor Open Road Films.

1. Mama – $33 million

2. Zero Dark Thirty – $18.7 million

3. Silver Linings Playbook – $13 million

4. Gangster Squad – $10.3 million

5. A Haunted House – $9.7 million

Two new action films targeting older male audiences also opened this weekend, but both flopped right out of the gate. Fox’s $35 million Russell Crowe/Mark Wahlberg vehicle Broken City could only manage $9.5 million ($8.3 million in three days) from 2,620 theaters — enough for sixth place. Meanwhile Lionsgate’s $45 million Arnold Schwarznegger shoot-em-up The Last Stand started its run in tenth place with a truly awful $7.2 million ($6.2 million in three days) from 2,913 locations. For the former Governator, The Last Stand needed to hit to prove he was still a box office draw following the under-performance of The Expendables 2, which grossed $85 million domestically against a $100 million budget last year. Nonetheless, I’d bet that he’ll be back. Both films earned “B” CinemaScore grades.

In milestone news, Life of Pi crossed the $100 million mark in its ninth week of release thanks to a $4.2 million frame. Awards buzz has given the Ang Lee-directed drama a second wind. Skyfall, meanwhile, surpassed $300 million domestically. Internationally, it’s earned $737.6 million already, and it opens in China today.

Next week brings the release of the long-delayed Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, as well as the Jason Statham actioner Parker and the comedy ensemble Movie 43. Check back to EW all weekend to find out how those films fare.

For more box office musing and updates:

Broken City
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