Lone_Survivor_posterUPDATE, 4:34 PM: In a matter of less than 24 hours, Universal has doubled its expectations for the war-themed action/drama Lone Survivor to $33M-$35M for the 3-day weekend. And, according to distributors’ estimates, Lone Survivor will open far and above the other titles in the marketplace. These are very early returns from Friday play times and numbers are bound to change after the N.Y. evening shows and L.A. afternoon and evening dates are calculated. Other titles’ box office numbers (below) are also expected to rise. Stay tuned.

PREVIOUS, FRIDAY AM: Lone Survivor, the true story about a group of Navy SEALs who are cut off from communication and then ambushed by Al-Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan, opened well in late-night showings — 8 PM-midnight in 1,811 theaters in the U.S.  The action pic from director Peter Berg and real-life hero Marcus Luttrell took in $1.5M, according to U.S. distributor Universal Pictures. Today it opens on 2,876 theaters in North America; EOne is handling the film’s distribution in Canada. The picture is currently on track to take the No. 1 box office spot, and Fandango reported it had 51% of ticket sales leading into the weekend. The consensus is that it will far outweigh newcomer The Legend Of Hercules from Lionsgate/Summit which may even fall towards the bottom of the pack as it is getting killed by the critics (a zero Rotten Tomato score? Yikes!), but it all remains to be seen. It’s typically very hard to track war-themed films, but the best comparison is probably Zero Dark Thirty which opened limited in December last year, expanded wide in January and grabbed a $24.4M in its 3-day opening weekend. It opened wide in 2,072 runs for its Thursday night sneak to gross $650,000, according to Sony. However, it opened at 10 PM, giving it one less showing in slightly fewer theaters. Lone Survivor is on fewer screens overall, but it is possible that it could pull in a high $28M to $30M weekend gross. Universal was saying mid-to-high teens late yesterday. Yeah, okay. What a difference a few hours make (ahem!) Ticker tape Box Office reporting … what a joke this all is. August: Osage County from The Weinstein Co. is only going for 900 runs (pulled back a bit from the wider expansion), and is expected to pull in more than Hercules on 2,104 runs (maybe $7.5M to $8M for August vs. $6M to $6.5M for Hercules).

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...