The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and American Hustle Heat Up Wintry Box Office

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and American Hustle Heat Up Wintry Box OfficeWinter weather, holiday shopping and festivities put a slight chill on the opening of the second of three Hobbit films, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at the North American box office this weekend. The second chapter of Peter Jackson’s latest Middle Earth trilogy opened lower than last year’s An Unexpected Journey but still managed to bring in big numbers. American Hustle hit the jackpot on six screens in advance of its nationwide expansion next week while A Madea Christmas met with moderate results.

Almost one year to the date that An Unexpected Journey arrived on the scene, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug flew into 3,903 theaters to earn a solid $73.7 million for a great per-screen average of $18,877. The debut for Smaug was roughly 13% lower than Jounrney’s debut, but that film had the advantage of nine years of built-up fan anticipation following the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings, 2003’s Return of the King. $9.2 million of Smaug’s opening weekend came from IMAX theaters while nearly half of its overall gross came from 3D screens. The weekend breakdown for Smaug was $31.2 million on Friday (this included $8.8 million from Thursday midnight screenings), $24.5 million on Saturday (-21%) and an estimated $17.9 million from Sunday (-27%).

Reviews were largely on the positive side for the second chapter of Peter Jackson’s latest Middle Earth Trilogy. The film earned a 74% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes while ticket buyers gave the movie a promising “A-” rating on CinemaScore. Given the positive buzz and the upcoming holiday timeframe, Smaug should come close to earning the $303 million that Journey brought in a year ago. Overseas, the movie opened in 49 markets this past Wednesday to earn a great $131 million. The concluding chapter of the Hobbit saga, There and Back Again, opens on December 17, 2014.

Disney’s Frozen eased a mere 30% from its second weekend of release to earn a great $22.2 million from 3,716 theaters. After three weeks of release the animated smash has earned an excellent $164 million so far. The movie is running a big 43% ahead of 2010’s Tangled and should work its way to the quarter-billion mark (if not higher) by the end of its domestic run.

Madea is back at the multiplex and this time it’s a Christmas-themed movie. The imaginatively titled Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas opened for Lionsgate on 2,194 screens this weekend and earned a decent $16 million for a solid per-screen average of $7,293. The opening was on the low side for a Tyler Perry-directed film that features his alter-ego Madea, but the film should do respectable business for the next two weeks leading up to Christmas.

Fourth place went to another Lionsgate film, the blockbuster The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The hit sequel lost 600 of its screens (most likely to The Hobbit) and nearly half of its audience from the previous weekend. In its fourth round Katniss earned an estimated $13.1 million from 3,563 screens to bring its domestic total to $357 million. Depending on how the upcoming holiday period shakes out for the blockbuster, Fire may still be able to reach the $400 million mark by the end of its domestic run. Rounding out the top five is Disney/Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World with an estimated $2.7 million. To date, the superhero flick has earned $198 million and should cross the $200 million mark within the next week.

Two films debuted in limited release in advance of their nationwide expansions next Friday. Sony’s American Hustle earned a spectacular $690,000 from only six screens and Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks earned a solid $421,000 from 15 screens.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows:

6. Out of the Furnace (Relativity Pictures) $2.3 million (-57%); $9.4 million

7. Delivery Man (Dreamworks) $1.8 million (-50%); $28 million

8. Philomena (Weinstein Company) $1.75 million (-20%); $11 million

9. The Book Thief (Fox Searchlight) $1.675 (-36%); $14.9 million

10. Homefront (Open Road) $1.63 million (-52%); $18.4 million

Wednesday heralds the return of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues while Friday sees the debuts of Walking With Dinosaurs and the national expansions of American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks and a platform expansion of CBS Films’ Inside Llewyn Davis.

Stay warm, everyone!

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