Christmas Surprise for Angelina Jolie as 'Unbroken' Wins Box Office

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Angelina Jolie's World War II biopic Unbroken overcame movie musicals and franchise favorites to take the top spot in the Christmas Day box office battle. The harrowing adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 nonfiction book beat out musicals Into the Woods and Annie as well as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

The true story of Olympian-turned-fighter pilot Louis Zamperini grossed $15.6 million on 3,131 screens, making it the third-highest Christmas Day debut, behind 2009’s Sherlock Holmes ($24.6 million) and 2012’s Les Miserables ($18.1 million).

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Though Zamperini passed away in July, Jolie was able to show him an early cut of the movie, the actress's second turn at directing after 2011's In the Land of Blood and Honey, which stars English actor Jack O’Connell as the track star and POW survivor.

"He watched very intently as a man who knew he was passing away. He watched his life before his eyes," Jolie told reporters during the film’s Australian premiere. "I'm so happy he's at peace. It's hard to argue anyone else had a fuller life with more purpose."

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The actress-turned-director came down with chicken pox before the film's Los Angeles premiere, but her husband Brad Pitt and half of the couple's six children filled in for her on the red carpet.

"Of course she’s disappointed that she can’t be here, but she’s so happy that everyone came out celebrate this amazing life," Pitt told ET.

See more from the red carpet in the video below.