In this image released by Relativity Media, a scene is shown from the film "Act of Valor," starring real, active-duty Navy SEALs. The commanders allowed a small, independent film company into their elite ranks to turn live training exercises into a feature-length movie five years ago, in hopes of drumming up recruits fast. (AP Photo/ Relativity Media)
Courtesy of IATM LLC
In this image released by Relativity Media, a scene is shown from the film “Act of Valor,” starring real, active-duty Navy SEALs. The commanders allowed a small, independent film company into their elite ranks to turn live training exercises into a feature-length movie five years ago, in hopes of drumming up recruits fast. (AP Photo/ Relativity Media)

Top 10

1. “Act of Valor,” $24.7 million.

2. “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds,” $16 million.

3. “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” $13.5 million.

4. “Safe House,” $11.4 million.

5. “The Vow,” $10 million.

6. “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” $8.8 million.

7. “This Means War,” $8.5 million.

8. “Wanderlust,” $6.6 million.

9. “Gone,” $5 million.

10. “The Secret World of Arrietty,” $4.5 million.

O n Oscar weekend, the real-life action stars of “Act of Valor” bested Hollywood’s pretend heroes.

The Relativity Media action flick, starring real, active-duty U.S. Navy SEALs, topped the weekend box office, earning $24.7 million according to studio estimates Sunday. That was a strong opening for a unique film made in collaboration with the Navy, which sought to demonstrate the skill and bravery of the SEALs without Hollywood imitation.

“How often can you repeat the same heroes that are big stars pretending to be heroes?” said Kyle Davies, president of worldwide distribution for Relativity. “I think moviegoers are ready for a new, fresh experience.”

“Act of Valor” led another strong weekend at the box office, as it was up 24.4 percent over the corresponding weekend last year. Attendance this year is up 20.4 percent, a surge that hasn’t been driven by Academy Awards contenders but by new films in a traditionally tepid movie-going season.

Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds,” a more dramatic offering for the consistently popular Perry, opened with a healthy $16 million. Its audience was resoundingly female (76 percent) and may have been slightly diminished by the appeal of Denzel Washington in the thriller “Safe House.” That earned $11.4 million, bringing its cumulative total to $98.1 million.

The weekend’s other new releases — the thriller “Gone” and the comedy “Wanderlust” — had weaker debuts. The latter, a comedy with Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston, earned $6.6 million. “Gone,” starring Amanda Seyfried, took in $5 million.

In their third week of release, Sony’s romantic drama “The Vow” and Warner Bros.’ family film “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” padded their totals. “Journey” added $13.5 million for a total of $76.7 million, while” The Vow” added $10 million more for a cumulative $103 million.

The success of “Act of Valor” validated an unusual strategy for Relativity, a production company that began distributing movies in 2010.

Internationally, the film, which plays much as patriotic propaganda, may face a stiffer challenge. It will open in foreign markets in future weeks, distributed by Film Nation.

Ahead of Sunday night’s Academy Awards, no Oscar-contender finished in the top 10. Most of the favorites have been playing for weeks, if not months.

The Weinstein Co.’s “The Artist,” the silent film ode and best picture favorite, is the only top award nominee still expanding its market. The film, which had a very slow rollout, added 158 theaters this weekend.