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How 'Ride Along 2' beat 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' at the box office

'Ride Along 2' and 'The Revenant' took down the massive hit 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' this weekend at the box office. What happened?

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    'Ride Along 2' stars Ice Cube (l.) and Kevin Hart (r.).
    Quantrell D. Colbert/Universal Pictures/AP
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Both the new comedy “Ride Along 2” and the awards season drama “The Revenant” managed to best “Star Wars” this weekend, as  “Star Wars:  The Force Awakens” came down from No. 1 at the box office for the first time since its release a month ago. 

“Ride Along 2,” a comedy sequel starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, came in first in ticket sales in its first weekend of release with a domestic gross of $34 million. The release of the comedy follows the success of 2014’s “Ride Along” at a similar time of year.

“The Revenant,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a nineteenth-century man who is injured in the wilderness, grossed more than $29 million in its second weekend of wide release. 'Revenant' is also getting Oscar buzz thanks to its performance in recent awards shows. 

And “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which recently became the highest-grossing movie of all time domestically, without adjusting for inflation, came in third this weekend, taking in more than $25 million. 

Director Michael Bay’s new movie “13 Hours” came in fourth, grossing $16 million. Obviously a new movie coming in fourth is not ideal. Bay’s film, which stars John Krasinski and David Denman, will have to do very well in the coming weeks to recover financially. 

The Will Ferrell comedy “Daddy’s Home,” which like “Star Wars” opened around the holidays, came in fifth, taking in more than $9 million for the weekend. 

Meanwhile, the new animated movie “Norm of the North” opened in sixth, grossing more than $6 million.

The beginning of the calendar year and especially January is traditionally thought of as a quieter time at the box office. Following the high-profile months of November and December when many Oscars contenders are released and studios attempt to lure families over holiday breaks with fare like “The Hunger Games” or a new animated film, January is usually a time for fewer major movies.

Compare earlier this month, when the horror movie “The Forest” was released on Jan. 8 and “The Revenant” expanded, to the weekend of Dec. 25 last month, when “Joy,” “Point Break,” “Daddy’s Home,” “Concussion,” and a limited release of “The Revenant” all opened and “The Big Short” had opened a couple of days before.

But studios may have learned that by opening a film during a quieter time at the box office, they can score big. In 2014, “Ride Along” easily dominated the multiplex when it opened in January, becoming one of the biggest hits of the year.

Last year, “Taken 3,” another action movie, had similar success opening in January. Further back, the film “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” also did well after opening in January 2009, as did the first “Taken” movie.

While “Force” is a huge movie, it’s now a month old, and different audiences are no doubt seeking out “The Revenant” than are “Ride.” If “Ride” can hold off the competition in coming weeks, it could be a January hit like its predecessor.

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