The Academy Awards may be more than a month away, but the box office was all about Oscar over the weekend.
Best Picture nominee "Zero Dark Thirty" was the #1 movie in North America as it expanded nationwide following a limited run in select cities. "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Lincoln," which racked up 12 Oscar nominations last week, were also buoyed by the award season attention.
Kathryn Bigelow took home Best Director and Best Picture with "The Hurt Locker" at the 2009 Academy Awards. Her follow-up film, "Zero Dark Thirty," collected $24 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend for a four-week total of $29.5 million. The drama about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden stars Jessica Chastain ("The Help"), Joel Edgerton ("Warrior") and Mark Strong ("Green Lantern"), among others.
Newcomer "A Haunted House" was #2 with $18.8 million against a reported production budget of just $2.5 million. The horror spoof was co-written by "Scary Movie 2" veteran Marlon Wayans, who stars alongside Cedric the Entertainer, J.B. Smoove ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and frequent Adam Sandler collaborator Nick Swardson. Much like many of the movies it spoofs, the low budget for "House" made it extremely profitable.
Despite featuring A-list stars like Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, "Gangster Squad" debuted at #3. The crime drama opened with $16.7 million. "Gangster Squad" is partially inspired by the story of real-life Los Angeles criminal Mickey Cohen, who is played by Penn.
Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" was undeterred by filmmaker Spike Lee's Twitter tirade and other outspoken critics of the film, a blacksploitation / spaghetti-western homage set in the pre-Civil War American South. "Django" made $11 million in its third weekend of release, giving Tarantino a career-best $125 million gross.
"Django" received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. The acting nod is for Christoph Waltz, who previously won an Oscar for his Best Supporting turn in Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds." Waltz won a Golden Globe for "Django" on Sunday night. Globe wins are often viewed as a precursor to nabbing Oscar gold. Tarantino won a Golden Globe as well, for Best Original Screenplay.
"Les Miserables" is up for eight Academy Awards. The musical was #5 at the box office over the weekend with $10.1 million for a $119.2 million total. Anne Hathaway was Best Supporting Actress at the Globes for her stunning performance in the film, which is based on the long-running musical.
"Silver Linings Playbook" is also a contender in eight categories. The movie's gross shot up 38 percent over the weekend compared with the weekend before. Though it's still in limited release, "Silver Linings Playbook" took in $5 million over the weekend for an overall gross of $41.3 million. Jennifer Lawrence took home a Golden Globe award on Sunday for her performance in the film, which also stars Bradley Cooper.
"Lincoln," of course, leads all films in the Oscar race with its 12 nominations. Receipts for Steven Spielberg's historical epic, which stars Daniel Day Lewis as America's 16th president, were up 17 percent over the weekend. The film has made over $152.5 million domestically for Disney in 10 weeks of release. Its weekend gross was just over $6.3 million. President Bill Clinton introduced the film at the Golden Globes.