Bin Laden film "Zero Dark Thirty" leads box office

Sun Jan 13, 2013 2:55pm EST
 

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Zero Dark Thirty," Hollywood's re-telling of the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden, captured the No. 1 spot on movie box office charts over the weekend with $24 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales.

The movie starring Jessica Chastain as a dogged CIA agent edged out horror movie spoof "A Haunted House," which earned $18.8 million, as well as "Gangster Squad," a period crime drama that finished in third place with $16.7 million, according to studio estimates.

Caught in political controversy, "Zero Dark Thirty" received a boost this week from five Oscar nominations, including best picture, though its director Kathryn Bigelow was snubbed in the best director category.

The movie is a dramatized account of the hunt for al Qaeda leader bin Laden and the May 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid in which he was killed. It has sparked a debate about its depictions of "enhanced interrogation techniques," with some critics arguing that the film promotes the use of torture.

Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have said their movie depicts several investigation methods and does not suggest one particular technique led to bin Laden. Sony Pictures Chairwoman Amy Pascal on Friday said the movie "does not advocate torture."

Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Corp's Sony Pictures studio, said one of the things the motive had certainly done was to promote "a lot of dialogue and conversation."

He attributed the film's strong performance to "the awards, conversation about controversy, and the film itself."

A Senate Committee is investigating whether the CIA spy agency provided the filmmakers with any inappropriate access to secret material. Government e-mails and memoranda released to the conservative group Judicial Watch show that both the CIA and the Pentagon provided extensive access.

"Zero Dark Thirty" expanded nationwide this weekend to nearly 3,000 theaters following limited showings since late December. It cost $40 million to make, according to website Hollywood.com.   Continued...

 
Cast members Jessica Chastain and Edgar Ramirez greet each other at the premiere of "Zero Dark Thirty"at the Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California December 10, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni