LOS ANGELES — The backlash in Washington over Zero Dark Thirty didn't reach the box office, as Kathryn Bigelow's CIA thriller got off to an excellent start in limited release.
Playing in five theaters, the film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden grossed $410,000 over the weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. That amounts to a robust per-theater average of $82,000 — the fourth highest of the year for a movie in limited release, behind The Master, Moonrise Kingdom and Lincoln.
The movie, which Sony opened Wednesday in an effort to spread positive word of mouth about the picture before the crowded weekend, has now collected $639,000 in all.
The well-reviewed film has been on a roller coaster ride over the last month, being named best picture of the year by a handful of critics groups while facing criticism from some top government officials. On Friday, Michael Morell, acting director of the CIA, said the movie gives the false impression that enhanced interrogation techniques — a.k.a. torture — helped to find bin Laden. Morell's condemnation of the movie came only days after a trio of U.S. senators complained the film was grossly inaccurate.
Zero Dark Thirty will expand to 60 theaters in 11 markets Jan. 4 before debuting nationwide Jan. 11.
Also debuting in limited release over the weekend was Amour, the French Palme d'Or-winning film about an elderly couple in declining health. Sony Pictures Classics debuted the film in three locations Wednesday, though over the weekend it grossed $70,662 for a solid $23,554 per-theater average.
Audiences were less interested in The Impossible, a drama about a family torn apart by the 2004 Thailand tsunami. The Summit Entertainment movie, which has generated award buzz for its star Naomi Watts, did not fare particularly well at the box office this weekend, selling $138,750 worth of tickets in 15 theaters.