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'The Revenant' takes early lead over 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

'The Revenant' takes early lead over 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption in "The Revenant." (Kimberley French)

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "The Revenant," a tale of against-all-odds survival in a brutal wilderness long ago, took an early lead in the weekend box-office race over the runaway hit space adventure set in a galaxy far, far away, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

"The Revenant," inspired by the true story of early 19th century scout Hugh Glass, took in an estimated $14.4 million Friday on its opening day in general release, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

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That put it comfortably in front of the nearly $10.8 million estimate for "The Force Awakens," heading into its fourth week in theaters.

Iñárritu's latest film has collected generally enthusiastic reviews, scoring a 77 out of 100 on the Metacritic.com aggregate review site. The Friday gross looks like good news for 20th Century Fox, based on early projections of $20 million expected for "The Revenant" through the weekend.

Times film critic Kenneth Turan's review was especially laudatory of "the combined exceptional work of star Leonardo DiCaprio and nonpareil cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki [to] create so much verisimilitude and beauty that it compels us to pay more attention to this glimpse of a dark, unsettling kill-or-be-killed world more than we otherwise would."

"The Revenant" averaged $4,267 per theater in the 3,375 screens that Fox has placed it in, almost 800 fewer than the 4,134 screens on which "The Force Awakens" continues to unfold for "Star Wars" fans young and old.

This week, "The Force Awakens" surpassed James Cameron's "Avatar" as the highest grossing film of all time in North America, taking just 20 days to overtake "Avatar's" career gross of $760.5 million. Projections put this weekend's gross for the seventh installment in the "Star Wars" saga at $45 million to $50 million.

In third place Friday was Gramercy Pictures' "The Forest," whose box-office estimate was just shy of $5 million. The thriller is set in Japan's Aokigahara Forest, known for drawing an inordinate number of people intent on committing suicide. It's been poorly received, logging a score of 37 at Metacritic.com.

In its third weekend, "Daddy's Home," Paramount's comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, pulled in an estimated $4.2 million, to place fourth in Friday's derby.

It is followed by Universal's "Sisters," the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy that came in fifth, grossing almost $2.3 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo's estimates.

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