Weekend Box Office: 'Ride Along' No. 1, on Pace for $40 Million

Comcast, Viacom, Disney and News Corp are battling for the box office

Ride Along won the Friday Box Office with $13 million, Image source: Comcast Universal

Move over, Jack Ryan, because the local police just took your place at the top -- that is, if Friday's box office numbers are any indication.

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) Universal's new buddy comedy Ride Along easily trounced its big-screen competition last night, earning an impressive $14.5 million.

But it shouldn't be all that surprising. The last time comedian Kevin Hart and Director Tim Story teamed up was for 2012's Think Like a Man, it easily won its respective Friday debut in 2012 with $12.1 million. If we assume a similar Friday weekend multiple this time, it should put Ride Along on pace to gather around $40 million this weekend -- not too shabby considering analysts have pegged Comcast's production budget for the film at around $25 million. 

What's more, Ride Along is the only new film this weekend to earn an "A" CinemaScore from polled audiences, which means it should also benefit from positive word of mouth.

But speaking of movies people love, Comcast also secured second place with its "A+" holdover in Lone Survivor, which earned an estimated $6.7 million last night and remains on pace for a solid $26 million second-weekend haul.

Here's how everyone else fared

And that finally brings us to Viacom  (NASDAQ: VIA  ) Paramount's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which earned third place with $5.4 million yesterday -- or just over half the $10 million Friday debut enjoyed by Jack Ryan's last film in 2002, The Sum of All Fears. When all's said and done this weekend, Viacom's $60 million effort will likely gross around $17 million.

So why did Shadow Recruit disappoint? Despite Viacom's broader target PG-13 audience, I think the main culprit lies with significant overlap in interested viewers who would rather watch Comcast's R-rated Lone Survivor.

Next, Open Road Films' first jab at 3-D animation arrived this weekend with The Nut Job, which currently sits in fourth place at a modest $4.8 million en route to a likely $15 million weekend launch -- not an overwhelming debut, but reasonable when we consider Open Road's mid-range $42 million budget. 

By comparison, Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) remarkably strong, award-winning blockbuster Frozen grabbed another $2.5 million in its eighth Friday, or down just 18% over the same day last week. However, keeping in mind Frozen enjoyed a massive late-weekend push following a light start seven day's ago, Disney's film could potentially total around $12 million come Monday.

Finally, News Corp's (NASDAQ: NWS  ) 20th Century Fox horrified captive audiences Friday, earning just $3.5 million with Devil's Due. Movie-goers weren't pleased, however, giving it a dismal "D+" CinemaScore. Even so, News Corp shouldn't be too concerned. The film only required a tiny $7 million budget, which all but ensures it'll prove a financial success for the studio over the long run.

I'll be sure to touch base Monday to see how the final numbers pan out. All things considered, though, it looks like the competition has plenty of catching up to do if it wants to steal Ride Along's thunder. In the meantime, just sit back and enjoy the show.

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