Hercules was no match for Navy SEALs as Lone Survivor powered to a surprisingly lopsided win at the box office this weekend.
The true story of a military mission gone awry collected $38.5 million, according to studio estimates from box office trackers Rentrak.
While the movie opened in limited release on Christmas Day, the Mark Wahlberg drama did twice what most analysts expected. The movie has collected $38.9 million overall.
Despite an R rating and a story based on a failed 2005 mission that left 19 U.S. casualties, Survivor played particularly well in the heartland with a patriotic ad campaign, say analysts.
"Instead of focusing on the downer of a story, Universal's marketing has played up the movie's themes of courage and brotherhood," says Ray Subers, analyst for Box Office Mojo.
Critics and fans signed up for the mission. Survivor earned a 73% approval rating from the nation's reviewers and a thumbs-up from 86% of moviegoers, says pollsters Rotten Tomatoes. Directed by Peter Berg, the movie earned a collective grade of A-plus from fans, according to CinemaScore.
The debut was enough for an easy win at the box office and bump Frozen from the top spot. The Disney animated comedy did $15.1 million and second place.
Leonardo DiCaprio's The Wolf of Wall Street was third with $9 million.
The only major newcomer of the weekend, The Legend of Hercules, mustered a wimpy $8.6 million, below its modest forecast of $12 million.
The film tied with American Hustle, which also claimed $8.6 million.
Final figures are due Monday.
Scott Bowles, USA TODAY