Movie buoyed by strong word of mouth

Tapping into patriotism, Universal’s Navy SEALs action film “Lone Survivor” is playing powerfully at the U.S. box office with a projected $33 million to $35 million weekend according to estimates based on Friday showing.

Projections have doubled over the past 24 hours with Friday’s grosses looking to finish between $12 million and $13 million as strong word of mouth about the true-life tale of heroism propels ticket sales. Execs speculated that moviegoers – especially in Middle America — were hooked by a marketing campaign stressing the themes of patriotism, heroism, friendship and family.

The jump in projections underlines the fact that forecasts of box office performance can be occasionally unreliable, particularly outside coastal areas. Moviegoers are taking to Twitter to applaud the military bravery portrayed in the film, which looks to fill the gap in the marketplace for films with patriotic themes.

Relativity’s “Act of Valor,” which also centered on the heroics of Navy SEALs, also performed above expectations in 2012 with $70 million at the U.S. box office.

“Lone Survivor” also appeared to be benefiting from the relative absence of new competition following the barrage of high-profile titles opening in December. Reviews of the project, based on a 2005 attempt to capture or kill a Taliban leader, have been strong with Peter Berg’s screenplay receiving a WGA nomination.

“Lone Survivor” was made for $48 million with coin from independent financiers including Randall Emmett and George Furla.

Disney’s toon “Frozen,” which won last weekend with $19.6 million, is expected to finish second in the low teens for Friday-Sunday. The family-friendly comedy has topped $302 million domestically.

The only wide opener is Lionsgate’s sword-and-sandals actioner “The Legend of Hercules,” starring Kellan Lutz and tracking to gross between $7 million to $8 million in the three days.
Warner Bros.’ futuristic “Her,” which broadens to 1,729 locations, appears headed for $2 million on Friday and a $6 million weekend. The Weinstein Co.’s “August: Osage County” is also expanding into 905 locations; early forecasts project to between $7.5 million to $10 million for the three days.

Paramount’s third weekend of “The Wolf of Wall Street” will likely be a factor this weekend. The Leonardo DiCaprio drama has been holding well during mid-week days and led the chart on Thursday with $1.5 million for a total of nearly $70 million Stateside since its Christmas Day launch.

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