Sony Pictures' Osama bin Laden raid drama nabbed first place with $24 million in its first weekend in wide release, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The film, which opened in a limited run last month, earned five Oscar nominations last week, including best picture, original screenplay and actress for Jessica Chastain as a dogged CIA operative.
Open Road Films' horror parody "A Haunted House" starring Marlon Wayans debuted in second place with a solid $18.8 million. The Warner Bros. mobster drama "Gangster Squad," starring Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling as off-the-books police officers battling a mob boss played by Sean Penn, opened below expectations in third place with $16.7 million.
After earning Oscar nominations last week, several Academy Awards contenders benefited at the box office. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences moved up the unveiling of the Oscar nominations to Thursday, three days ahead of Sunday's Golden Globes, Hollywood's second-biggest awards ceremony organized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
"The timing is great because there are a host of these awards contenders still out there," said Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst at Hollywood.com. " 'Django Unchained,' 'Les Miserables,' 'Lincoln,' 'Silver Linings Playbook' and a few others are still out there. Which movies win tonight at the Golden Globes will definitely receive a boost going forward.
At the Golden Globes, "Zero Dark Thirty" will be up against "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln" in the best motion picture drama category. It's also competing against those films for the best picture prize at the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 24, as well as "Amour," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Les Miserables" and "Silver Linings Playbook."
Controversies surrounding "Zero Dark Thirty," which depicts waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, may have helped create buzz for the film. Several lawmakers accused the CIA of misleading "Zero Dark Thirty" filmmakers by allegedly telling them such interrogation methods helped track down terrorist mastermind bin Laden in 2011.