‘Lone Survivor’ Commands Box Office for Surprising $38 Million Debut

'Hercules' in horse race for third against late 2013 releases

Lone Survivor

Universal’s “Lone Survivor” continues to exceed expectations. Pre-weekend analysis that had the film around $15 million in its first three days was adjusted to $33 million Friday, and today jumps again with a finish around $38 million.

This may melt “Frozen’s” cold grip on the box office’s top spot, but the toon doesn’t slide far as it approaches second place with about $15 million.

Lionsgate-Summit opener “The Legend of Hercules” is headed to $8 million or $9 million this weekend after bowing to $3.1 million Friday. Right now it looks likely to wind up third in the domestic marketplace, but so many films in the top 10 this weekend are anticipating grosses in the $6 million to $9 million range, it could easily end in fifth or sixth against “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “American Hustle” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

“Hercules” is the only wide bow Friday as “Lone Survivor,” “Her” and “August: Osage County” are merely expanding following Oscar-qualifying runs. “August” is doing exceptional biz so far with $7 million from 905 locations and “Her” at $5.5 million from 1,729 for seventh and tenth place, respectively, by Sunday.

“Love Survivor’s” surprise success is being attributed in part to a targeted marketing push emphasizing the real-life element of the film, which is based off Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s account, along with themes like patriotism and fraternity. Later ads featured helmer Peter Berg and Luttrell himself to cement the film’s authenticity.

Though market demographics are not yet available, box office observers expect the spike in interest comes from heartland states — markets Universal was likely making an extra effort to court with more recent ads.