The latest offering in the horror franchise, first launched in 1974 but now in 21st century 3D gore, took in $23 million in its debut weekend, the first of the new year, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Not far behind in second place was Quentin Tarantino's brutal Western “Django Unchained,” which earned $20 million it its second week. The film, which has already earned five Golden Globe nominations, is considered a top Oscars contender.
That left “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the long-awaited first part of Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” prequel trilogy, in third place. It racked up $17.5 million in its fourth week in theaters, for an international grand total of $263.8 million so far.
Another Oscar-tipped movie, “Les Miserables,” took fourth spot, raking in in $16.1 million at the box office in its second week in theaters. The all-important Academy Award nominations are due to be announced Thursday, January 10.
In fifth place, “Parental Guidance,” a comedy starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler looking after their grandchildren, earned $10.1 million. Tom Cruise action blockbuster “Jack Reacher,” in which the Hollywood A-lister's character investigates fictional shootings by a trained military sniper, came in sixth with weekend earnings of $9.3 million.
And Judd Apataw's comedy “This is 40,” billed as “a sort-of sequel” to the 2007 film romcom “Knocked Up,” stayed just behind with $8.6 million. In eighth place was Steven Spielberg's political drama “Lincoln” - another Oscar hopeful which topped the Golden Globe nominations with seven nods - earning $5.3 million on its ninth weekend.
“The Guilt Trip,” about a mother-son road trip starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogan, earned $4.5 million, good enough for ninth place. Joining the top 10 for the first time, with $4.3 million in box office receipts, was “Promised Land,” a drama starring Matt Damon and exploring the booming but controversial drilling process known as fracking.