Friday Box Office: ‘Zero Dark’ starts wide release on top with $9 mil; ‘Haunted,’ ‘Gangster’ vie for second with $6.7 mil

Sony manhunt pic expected to win weekend with around $25 mil

Sony proves a smart strategy in its long awaited wide release of “Zero Dark Thirty” as it dominated the domestic B.O. Friday with $9 million.

Adding to the more than $5.5 million the manhunt thriller made in the last three weeks in limited release, “Zero Dark Thirty” adds both eyeballs and headlines this frame. Oscar attention and media controversy over the film, including a statement released yesterday from Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal blasting an Acad member for speaking out against the pic’s depiction of torture, only seems to add fuel to the B.O. fire. Pundits predicted “Zero Dark Thirty” would top out at $20 million this weekend, but adjusted estimates have the film making at least $25 million to win the weekend.

The frame’s newcomers tied Friday as Open Road’s “A Haunted House” and Warner Bros.’ “Gangster Squad” both grossed $6.7 million Friday. Between the two, “Gangster Squad” — another controversy-ridden entry as WB pushed the pic into reshoots last year to replace a scene that too closely resembled the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. — is projected to pull ahead and take second. In three days, “Gangster Squad” and “A Haunted House” are expected to make around $19 million and $17 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, other Oscar hopefuls remain buoyed by the recent nominations announcement. Weinstein Co.’s “Django Unchained” and Universal’s “Les Miserables,” B.O. favorites during the holiday season and Best Picture nominees from the Acad, take fourth and fifth respectively Friday with $3.5 million and $2.9 million.

And Lionsgate’s “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” which overperformed last Friday with $10.2 million dropped far to eighth place with $1.8 million, as scarers tend to do in their soph sessions.