Annapurna Pictures’ thriller procedural about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden has begun its assault on the North American box office in earnest.

US distributor Columbia Pictures expanded Zero Dark Thirty from 60 theatres to 2,937 in its fourth weekend of release heading into the Golden Globes ceremony on Sunday night [13].

The film is nominated for four Globes including best actress for Jessica Chastain as the driven CIA operative on the trail of Bin Laden.

Zero Dark Thirty picked up five Oscar nominations last week and while director Kathryn Bigelow is a notable absentee (she is in contention for Sunday’s Globes) that should not preclude the film from reaching a hvery respectable number by the end of its run. It has already grossed more than Bigelow’s previous film The Hurt Locker, which remains the lowest grossing best picture winner in history on $17m back in 2009.

Open Road Films launched horror spoof A Haunted House in second place on $18.8m. IM Global’s genre division Octane financed the $2.5m feature and pre-sold territories in Cannes last summer. Marlon Wayans wrote and stars and Michael Tiddes directed.

Endgame Entertainment committed P&A funding believed to be in the region of $20m and Open Road created a prominent social marketing campaign that by Friday [11] had generated more than 400,000 Facebook “likes”.

Warner Bros’ Gangster Squad starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin arrived in third place on $16.7m.

Working Title’s Les Misérables crossed $200m worldwide and climbed to $119.2m after three weeks of activity in North America through Universal Pictures.

The impact of the Oscar nominations can already be detected on several releases. Buena Vista/DreamWorks expanded Lincoln by 126 theatres to 2,207 and the drama added $6.3m for $152.6m in its tenth weekend.

Similarly The Weinstein Company’s Silver Linings Playbook surged back into the top ten after climbing two places to number 10. This is one to watch in the coming weeks and is growing steadily. It went out in a further 65 theatres as the count climbed to 810 and box office grew by $5m to $41.3m in the ninth weekend.

Fox 2000’s Life Of Pi, which earned 11 nominations last week, stands at $94.8m after eight weekends.

Lionsgate’s Texas Chainsaw 3D fell eight places to number nine and stands at a respectable $30.8m after two.

SPC’s Amour, which is in contention for a best foreign language Golden Globe on Sunday and earned best picture, foreign language picture, directing, screenplay and lead actress Oscar nominations, expanded from three to 15 theatres in its fourth weekend and grossed $270,600 for a $652,000 running total.

Next weekend’s wide releases are Universal’s horror Mama starring Jessica Chastain, Fox’s crime thriller Broken City with Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Lionsgate’s The Last Stand starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Johnny Knoxville.

Estimated Top 10 North America Jan 11-13 2012
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (16) Zero Dark Thirty (Columbia Pictures) Panorama $24m $29.5m
2 (-) A Haunted House (Open Road) Octane $18.8m –
3 (-) Gangster Squad (Warner Bros) WBPI $16.7m –
4 (2) Django Unchained (TWC) Sony Pictures Releasing International $11.1m $125.4m
5 (4) Les Misérables (Universal/Working Title) UPI $10.1m $119.2m
6  (3) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros/New Line/MGM) WBPI $9.1m $278.1m
7 (8) Lincoln (Dwks-Buena Vista) Fox Int’l $6.3m $152.6m
8 (5) Parental Guidance (Fox) Fox International $6.1m $60.7m
9 (1) Texas Chainsaw 3D (Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $5.2m $30.8m
10 (12) Silver Linings Playbook (TWC) TWC International $5m $41.3m