It looks like Kevin Hart will easily lock up a first-place finish at the box office during the busy Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, coming in ahead of last week's victor "Lone Survivor" and the new "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."
Universal Pictures' buddy-cop comedy "Ride Along," starring the fast-talking Hart alongside Ice Cube, grossed an estimated $41.2 million in ticket sales through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada and is on track to take in $47.8 million through Monday, beating all expectations.
Not adjusting for inflation, that would make it the highest-grossing Martin Luther King Jr. Day four-day weekend opener ever, topping 2008's monster movie "Cloverfield," which generated $46.1 million in its holiday debut. "Ride Along" cost $25 million to make.
Critics were largely unimpressed by "Ride Along," indicated by a 16% "fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences were receptive, giving it a grade of A, according to the polling firm CinemaScore.
Last week's No. 1 film, "Lone Survivor," also from Universal, will land in second place, with an estimated gross of $23.2 million through Sunday. The estimated cumulative domestic take is $74 million for the $40-million film.
"The Nut Job," a 3-D critter caper distributed by Open Road Films, grossed around $20.5 million, a strong result for an animated film not from a major studio. The movie, featuring the voices of celebrities including Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglesias and Katherine Heigl, is in third place.
Paramount Pictures' $60-million "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," a reboot starring Chris Pine as the Tom Clancy-created CIA character, generated $17.2 million in ticket sales over three days, about in line with expectations. Reviews were mixed and moviegoers gave it a B CinemaScore grade.
"Frozen," the highly successful animated Disney musical, slid to fifth place with a three-day total of nearly $12 million, bringing its domestic total to around $333 million.
Meanwhile, the new low-budget found-footage fright-fest "Devil's Due" scared up about $8.5 million through Sunday to finish in seventh behind "American Hustle," which is nominated for 10 Academy Awards including best picture. The con-artist tale took in $10.6 million over three days, up 28% compared with last weekend.
The Weinstein Co.'s "August: Osage County," nominated for two Oscars, added theaters and took in $7.6 million, up 6% from last weekend, while Paramount's "Wolf of Wall Street," up for five Academy Awards, brought in $7.5 million, down about 15%.
Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks" rounded out the top 10 with a $4.15-million take, bringing its domestic total to $75.4 million.
"Gravity" and "Captain Phillips" capitalized on the Oscar buzz by expanding into more theaters after the nominations.
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