“It’s ali-i-ive!” screamed Colin Clive as the scientist who created a monster in Universal’s 1931 Frankenstein, the movie that launched 200 or more variations on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 1818 novel. No such claim could be made for I, Frankenstein, the lone wide release this weekend, which earned only $8.3 million at North American theaters, according to preliminary studio estimates. It’s Dead on Arrival.
Two hit holdovers, both released by Universal, dominated the weekend action. Ride Along, the buddy-cop comedy starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, held fairly strong from its boffo opening over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend: it registered $21.2 million, for a 10-day total of $75.4 million. And Lone Survivor, with Mark Wahlberg as a Navy SEAL trapped in a Taliban-held village in Afghanistan, pulled in $12.6 million for a cumulative $93.6 million in its third week of wide release.
(READ: Corliss’s review of Lone Survivor)
This pair of stars — the newly crowned Hart and the veteran Wahlberg — helped Universal connect with a one-two box office punch not seen in nearly 20 years. According to Universal publicists, this is “the first time a studio has held the top two weekend slots for two weekends in a row since February 1994 when Warner Bros. led with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and On Deadly Ground.”
(READ: Joel Stein’s profile of Ride Along star Kevin Hart by subscribing to TIME)
Ride Along and Lone Survivor are also the only live-action films of the new year not to flop. Among the casualties: the latest entry in a wealthy horror franchise (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones), a new horror film of demonic hue (Devil’s Due), a Greek myth that didn’t hit (The Legend of Hercules) and, a bit higher up the movie-lutionary scale, a revival of a popular spy series from the 1990s (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). Some of these cost peanuts to produce, others $60 million to $80 million. All have disappointed their investors, not to mention the domestic audience.
I, Frankenstein, made for about $65 million, opened to a lower opening-weekend total than any of these underachievers, despite its playing in 3-D and IMAX theaters that charge steeper ticket prices. Sponsored by Lakeshore, the company that spawned the Underworld fantasy-horror series, I, Frankenstein transports the creature (Aaron Eckhart) to a modern-day, Underworld-style battle between angels and demons. Derided by most critics, the movie managed a not-awful “B” CinemaScore — the same mark as Jack Ryan, and higher than Hercules (B-), The Marked Ones (C) and Devil’s Due (D+) — from an audience that skewed 62% male and 60% over the age of 25.
(READ: Corliss’s contrarian review of I, Frankenstein)
The year’s one new animated feature, The Nut Job, has met its modest goal of keeping kids occupied between Frozen and, in two weeks, The Lego Movie. It earned $12.3 million this weekend (third place), for a 10-day total of just over $40 million, which happens to be the budget of this inexpensive Canada-Korea coproduction. Meanwhile, Frozen is far from decomposin’. With a $9-million weekend tally, the Disney princess movie secured fourth place in its ninth week of wide release, for a domestic tally of nearly $350 million and a worldwide gross north of $800 million.
(SEE: the inspired mashup of Frozen’s “Let It Go” sung in 25 languages)
Three Oscar hopefuls were bunched in the lower rank of the top 10: American Hustle, scamming its way to $127 million in its sixth week of wide release; The Wolf of Wall Street ready to crack $100 million in its fifth week; and August: Osage County, up to $26.5 million in its second wide-release week. The Best Picture finalist Nebraska nearly tripled its theater count (to 968) but managed only $1.4 million, for an 11-week total of $11.6 million. Gravity, which last night won the top Directors Guild Award for Alfonso Cuarón, earned $2 million to raise its domestic cumulative to a stratospheric $261.2 million and its global gross to $680 million.
(READ: Why Gravity Won’t Win the Best Picture Oscar)
In a mid-range opening of 385 theaters, Gimme Shelter grossed $721,000 for its Precious-lite tale of a pregnant teen (High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens) and her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson). Specialty openings saw Gloria, the Chilean candidate for the Foreign Film Oscar, amass an encouraging $58,775 at three venues, and the French Stranger by the Lake, a suspense drama with some graphic gay sex, earn an energetic $26,741 on two screens.
(READ: Corliss’s review of Stranger by the Lake)
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Ride Along, $21.2 million; $75.4 million, second week
2. Lone Survivor, $12.6 million; $93.6 million, fifth week
3. The Nut Job, $12.3 million; $40.3 million, second week
4. Frozen, $9 million; $347.8 million, tenth week
5. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, $8.8 million; $30.2 million, second week
6. I, Frankenstein, $8.3 million, first weekend
7. American Hustle, $7.1 million; $127 million, seventh week
8. August: Osage County, $5.04 million; $26.5 million, fifth week
9. The Wolf of Wall Street, $5 million; $98 million, fifth week
10. Devil’s Due, $2.7 million; $12.9 million, second week