By Grady Smith
Updated January 12, 2014 at 07:56 PM EST
Greg Peters

American Hustle

  • Movie

Pete Berg’s gritty combat drama Lone Survivor accomplished its mission at the box office this weekend. The film, based on the true story of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, grossed $38.5 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, marking the second best January debut of all time after Cloverfield‘s $40.1 million bow in 2008. Audiences, which were 57 percent male and 57 percent 30 or older, issued Lone Survivor a rare “A+” CinemaScore grade, suggesting that Universal’s $40 million film will benefit from terrific word-of-mouth in the weeks to come.

Lone Survivor‘s success marks a major comeback for director Berg, whose last film, Battleship, opened to just $25 million against a whopping $209 million budget. Like that film, Lone also stars Friday Night Lights‘ Taylor Kitsch, though it was marketed primarily on the star power of its leading man, Mark Wahlberg. The Boston-born star has grown into a reliable box office draw, so its doubly impressive that Lone Survivor is one of his best-ever opening weekend results, trailing only 2012’s Ted, which started with $54.4 million. The film is a major win for all parties involved.

Disney’s Frozen held strong in second place, dipping a scant 23 percent to $15.1 million in its seventh weekend of wide release. The animated smash has now grossed a truly spectacular $317.7 million against a $150 million budget. Notably, the princess film’s box office success is driving its soundtrack to impressive numbers as well. The disc climbed to the top of the Billboard 200 this week, relegating Beyoncé’s self-titled behemoth to second place. If it continues to melt this slowly, Frozen should finish above $350 million domestically.

Martin Scorsese’s coked-up comedy The Wolf of Wall Street continues to thrive at the box office, despite its polarizing nature. The Leonardo DiCaprio showcase fell just 32 percent to $9 million in its third weekend, lifting its total to $78.6 million. The Paramount film would be considered a solid hit without any qualifiers if it weren’t for its $100 million budget, but it’s still another solid performance for both Scorsese and DiCaprio, neither of whom have ever had to make a franchise film to stay relevant.

New release The Legend of Hercules played like a Greek tragedy on opening weekend, earning only $8.6 million from 2,104 theaters, a gross the gods of Mount Olympus wouldn’t give a second glance. The Renny Harlin-directed action film, which stars Kellan Lutz as the titular hero, cost Millennium Films about $70 million to produce (Summit handled distribution), but it fell way short of Lutz’s last swords-and-sandals picture, Immortals, which opened with $32.2 million in 2011.

David O. Russell’s American Hustle finished in fifth with $8.6 million, pushing his 1970s crime dramedy past the $100 million mark. The $40 million Sony film has now earned $101.6 million total, and if it scores a few Golden Globe wins tonight, it could be looking at a gross closer to $150 million than $125 million, where it seems headed now.

1. Lone Survivor – $38.5 million

2. Frozen – $15.1 million

4. The Wolf of Wall Street – $9.0 million

3. The Legend of Hercules — $8.6 million

5. American Hustle – $8.6 million

Three Oscar contenders expanded nationally this weekend to mixed results. August: Osage County fared best, grossing $7.3 million from 905 theaters. Weinstein’s Julia Roberts/Meryl Streep family drama has now earned $7.8 million total. Warner Bros.’ critically lauded Spike Jonze entry Her played in almost twice as many theaters (1,729 locations) as August, but it finished with a much weaker $5.4 million and an $8.8 million total. Still, that result was better than CBS Films’ Inside Llewyn Davis, which moved into 729 theaters but only strummed up $1.8 million for a $9.3 million total. All three films will need major awards attention to hold up over the next month.

American Hustle

  • Movie
  • R
  • 138 minutes
  • David O. Russell