Box Office: How 'Ride Along' Set a New January Weekend Record

Comcast took the top two spots at box office over offerings from Viacom, Sony Pictures, Disney, and 20th Century Fox

Ride Along & Lone Survivor sealed the top two spots for Comcast this weekend, Image source: Comcast/Universal

If one thing's for sure given this weekend's box office results, it's that the folks at Comcast  (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) Universal should be grinning from ear to ear right now.

Comcast easily won the top two spots over the long weekend thanks to outstanding performances from both Ride Along and Lone Survivor.

Ride Along boasted an incredible three-day cume of $41.6 million in its debut. That not only exceeded my optimistic expectations, but also marks the highest ever January opening, ahead of 2008's Cloverfield, which earned $40 million during its own January launch in 2008. Better yet, including Martin Luther King Day sales on Monday, Ride Along's four-day gross came in at $48.1 million -- another January debut record -- or nearly double Comcast's reasonable $25 million production budget for the new buddy comedy.

So how did Ride Along pull it off? In addition to being the only new action-comedy entering wide release this weekend, Ride Along largely owes its success to a younger, ethnic target audience -- 80% were either African-American or Hispanic, and nearly half were under the age of 25. What's more, exiting movie-goers proved overwhelmingly pleased, granting the film a coveted "A" CinemaScore, and all but guaranteeing positive word of mouth going forward.

Don't count out the Navy SEALS

Meanwhile, Comcast also continued to win big with its highly regarded, R-rated war effort in Lone Survivor, which garnered three- and four-day totals of $22.1 million and $26.4 million, respectively. Having collected $77.2 million domestically just two weekends in, Lone Survivor has performed much better than expected thanks to the studio's notable decision to leave politics out of the mix and focus instead on the themes of heroism, bravery, and brotherhood. Polled audiences have agreed, giving the gritty, heart-wrenching movie a rare "A+" CinemaScore.

On a lighter note, Open Road Films spent $42 million on its first crack at 3-D animation with The Nut Job, which also performed better than expected at around $19.4 million during its three-day weekend launch. The Nut Job also maintained its momentum on Monday, earning another $6.3 million and bringing its estimated U.S. total to $25.7 million. Keep in mind, however, the family-friendly flick only earned a so-so "B" CinemaScore.

So while viewers were reasonably entertained, Open Road Films may not be able to achieve the same awe-inspiring box office momentum with The Nut Job as Disney  (NYSE: DIS  )  has with its "A+" Oscar nominated FrozenAnd Frozen, for its part, continued to run up the score for Disney this weekend, grossing another $16 million over the past four days and bringing its respective domestic and worldwide totals to $336.7 million and $763.2 million -- not bad compared to Disney's massive $150 million budget.

Why Jack Ryan struggled

At the same time, however, Viacom's  (NASDAQ: VIA  )  new action-thriller in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit struggled over the past four days with $18 million domestically. The film performed better with $22.2 million overseas, however, leaving hope Viacom can still recoup its $60 million outlay over the course of its theatrical run. Considering a full 40% of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's audience was over the age of 50, though, it's apparent Tom Clancy's most famous character simply isn't resonating with unfamiliar younger viewers. 

Next, Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) Pictures' American Hustle enjoyed the after-effects of 10 Oscar nominations last week, seeing sales jump 41.7% to $11.8 million and bringing its worldwide total to $143.3 million -- not too shabby considering American Hustle's $40 million budget. Even though American Hustle just wrapped up its sixth week in wide release, I wouldn't be surprised if the film ultimately managed to exceed the $200 million mark.

Finally, 20th Century Fox's Devil's Due may have turned off audiences judging by its horrendous "D+" CinemaScore, but it still managed to earn over $9.1 million since last Friday, or well over its tiny $7 million budget. If Devil's Due can maintain any momentum at all in spite of likely negative word of mouth, it should still prove a financial success for the studio over the long run.

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