The Universal buddy cop comedy featuring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube debuted with $41.2 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The strong opening for "Ride Along" marks the biggest debut for a film released during Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and puts it on track to top the $40.1 million record set by the 2008 monster movie "Cloverfield" for the biggest opening of January.
"It certainly appears with business at this level and with a CinemaScore of A and our exit polls supporting that, it's safe to say we'll break a few records," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal.
"Ride Along" is the first starring role for Hart, whose box-office status has been on the rise since the success of his 2013 stand-up film "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain" and memorable stints in such movies as "Think Like a Man," ''This Is the End" and "Grudge Match."
"He's everywhere it seems," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "I know he was co-starring with Ice Cube in 'Ride Along,' but this really was marketed as a Kevin Hart movie. There's no question he's a movie star now who doesn't require any qualifications before his name."
In second place, Universal's Navy SEAL drama "Lone Survivor" starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster earned $23.2 million in its second weekend in wide release, bringing its domestic total to $74 million.
Open Road Films' animated film "The Nut Job" featuring the voices of Will Arnett and Brendan Fraser opened in third place with $20.6 million.
The weekend's other major new releases, Paramount's spy series reboot "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" and the Fox horror flick "Devil's Due," respectively opened in fourth and seventh place.
"Jack Ryan," which stars Chris Pine in the titular role, debuted with a disappointing $17.2 million. The film directed by and also featuring Kenneth Branagh performed better overseas, where it nabbed $22.2 million in 29 international markets.
"Devil's Due" featuring Zach Gilford and Allison Miller as parents expecting their first child amid spooky occurrences birthed $8.5 million in its opening weekend.
Several films nominated for Academy Awards last week received a bump at the North American box office following their nods on Thursday, including "American Hustle" in sixth place with $10.6 million, "August: Osage County" in eighth place with $7.6 million and "The Wolf of Wall Street" in ninth place with $7.5 million. "The Wolf of Wall Street" also scored $27 million in 19 international territories.
The best picture contenders "Gravity," ''Captain Phillips," ''12 Years a Slave" and "Dallas Buyers Club" were all rereleased in theaters this weekend following their Oscar nominations. "Gravity" is up with "American Hustle" for the most trophies with 10 nominations each at the 86th annual ceremony set for March 2.
"The Oscars definitely have an impact on studios' decision-making process," said Dergarabedian. "These are movies that would normally be played out, finished, pretty much done in terms of box office, and now they're getting a completely new lease on life."