The Force was strong with Leonardo DiCaprio, but not quite strong enough to dethrone “Star Wars” from its perch atop box office charts.
Throughout the weekend, “The Force Awakens” was locked in a pitched battle with “The Revenant” for first place, but as the dust settled on Sunday, the “Star Wars” sequel had managed to eke ahead of the bloody revenge drama to retain its crown for the fourth straight weekend, picking up $41.6 million in receipts. That brings the space opera’s stateside haul to $812 million, making it the first film to ever cross $800 million domestically.
“The Revenant” still had much to celebrate. The film about a fur trapper whose quest for vengeance finds him braving roaring rapids, dodging hostile Native American tribes and disemboweling a dead horse, became an unlikely box office winner. The film, which is expected to land DiCaprio in the Oscar race, pulled in a sterling $38 million in its wide release debut.
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Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, Fox bowed the bloody thriller across 3,375 locations. The hugely complicated shoot was a production nightmare, with the film’s budget ballooning from $90 million to $135 million and the cast and crew being forced to decamp from Canada to Argentina in search of snow. Despite the challenges wrought by global warming, the film exceeded projections, which had it opening to around $20 million. The film appealed to men and older ticket-buyers, drawing an audience that was 57% male and 73% over the age of 25.
“Quality prevails,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution chief. “This is a real, reality-based film drawn from true events. It’s a motion picture that was made in the most arduous of circumstances and the end result is just a fantastic achievement.”
Combined with its grosses from the two weeks it spent in limited release, “The Revenant” has now made $39.5 million. In an era of diminishing star power, the picture confirms DiCaprio’s popular appeal, analysts say. The actor’s strategy of pooling his clout with the artistic visions of distinctive filmmakers such as Inarritu, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Baz Luhrmann has paid off with unorthodox hits such as “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Django Unchained.”
“He is one of the last great poster boys for star power in Hollywood,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “He is on a great streak of picking great movies and aligning himself with top tier directors. He’s doing that better than anyone else. It’s what makes him a movie star.”
There were other films looking to share in the post-holiday spoils. Paramount’s “Daddy’s Home,” a comedy about a step-father (Will Ferrell) competing with his wife’s first husband (Mark Wahlberg) for her kid’s affections, took third place with $15 million. It has made $116.3 million since debuting over Christmas.
Focus Features opened the thriller “The Forest,” starring Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney, in 2,451 locations, where it grossed $13.1 million for a fourth place finish. The film centers on a young American woman who travels to Japan to find her sister.
Universal’s “Sisters” rounded out the top five, earning $7.2 million. The Amy Poehler and Tina Fey comedy about a pair of siblings suffering from arrested development has racked up a respectable $73.9 million since opening last month.
Among awards season hopefuls, Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” dropped a steep 60% from its wide release bow despite adding 464 theaters. The revisionist Western from the Weinstein Company picked up $6.4 million, bringing its total to $41.5 million.
And Paramount’s “The Big Short” made $6.3 million. The financial crisis comedy with Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Steve Carell has earned $42.8 million. It could get a box office bump after the Golden Globes air Sunday and after Oscar nominations are announced on Thursday.