Weekend Box Office: Bilbo, Angie and Meryl Rule the Multiplexes

After a year that can only be described as dismal, Hollywood finally had something to smile about. A strong second weekend for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies led the charge for a big Christmas Week at the North American box office. The Bilbo blockbuster was joined by excellent bows from Universal’s Unbroken and Disney’s Into the Woods and strong second week holds from Fox’s Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Sony’s Annie. Paramount’s The Gambler had an unlucky roll in seventh place while Sony’s controversial comedy The Interview did decent business in a limited release. The top ten was up a big 48% over last weekend’s haul and 8% over last year’s total at this time.

The Battle of the Five Armies continued its winning ways on 3,875 screens to earn an estimated $41.4 million. Off a mere 24% from its debut weekend the final Hobbit feature has amassed a great $168.5 million after twelve days of release. The film is running roughly 20% ahead of The Desolation of Smaug’s 12-day haul of $140 million and almost even with An Unexpected Journey’s $168.1 million gross after the same amount of time.

With schools still closed this upcoming week and with many adults off for an extended holiday break Battle of the Five Armies should continue to stay at the top of the box office heap. Depending on how well the film does over the next week or so the film should work its way to a solid $275 million final domestic haul. Overseas, the film has earned a great $405 million so far and should easily pass the $700 million that The Desolation of Smaug earned one year ago, which would help put the film in the billion dollar club by the end of its run.

Audiences love an underdog story, especially one that is based on a true story. Universal’s Unbroken is such a film, and audiences turned out in big numbers since it debuted on Christmas Day on 3,131 screens. The Angelina Jolie-directed biographical drama about Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s tale of survival during World War II overcame mixed reviews from critics to earn $31.7 million since Friday and a big $47.3 million since Thursday. The $15.6 million Thursday bow for Unbroken is the fourth biggest Christmas Day opener on record. Whether the opening helps the film’s Oscar nomination chances remains to be seen.

Third place went to Disney’s big screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Into the Woods. The Rob Marshall-directed musical found plenty of fans at 2,440 venues where the movie earned $31 million from Friday-to-Sunday and $46 million since the opening on Christmas Day. Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Chris Pine, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp star in the Stephen Sondheim musical. Reviews were strong overall for the musical, which scored the fifth biggest Christmas Day opening with its $15 million Thursday haul.

After debuting with series-low numbers A Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb saw its business head upward in its second weekend. Now on 3,914 screens the family comedy increased its grosses by 20% to earn an estimated $20.6 million. To date the Ben Stiller feature has earned $55.3 million domestically and could work its way to the $90 million mark. The film has earned $47 million from overseas markets so far.

Another family flick that opened to mild numbers last weekend was Sony’s remake of Annie, which landed in fifth place this weekend. Much like the Night at the Museum sequel Annie also saw business increase thanks to kids being out of school for the holiday period. Up five percent, Annie earned an estimated $16.6 million on 3,197 screens to bring its two-week total to $45.8 million. Annie’s final domestic total could reach the $90 million mark.

It was a mixed Christmas for Paramount Pictures. The studio’s Christmas Day debut for the remake of The Gambler was met with audience indifference in seventh place. Starring Mark Whalberg and John Goodman and directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), The Gambler opened on 2,478 screens Thursday were it has earned a meek $14.3 million, of which $9.3 million came from the Friday-to-Sunday frame. Reviews were largely negative for the drama.

Paramount saw brighter fortunes –and potential Oscar glory in a few months- with its limited release of the Civil Rights drama Selma. The $20 million production, which lists Oprah Winfrey as one of its producers, opened on 19 screens Christmas Day where it went on to earn a great $912,000 ($590,000 from Friday-to-Sunday). Reviews have been overwhelming strong for Selma. It’s rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently stands at a perfect 100%. The movie will expand nationwide in early January.

Making an even bigger splash in limited release this week was Warner’s military drama American Sniper. The Clint Eastwood-directed feature that stars Bradley Cooper as real-life military sniper Chris Kyle, Sniper earned solid reviews and sterling box office at only four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Since Thursday, the feature has earned a massive $850,000 ($610,000 from Friday-to-Sunday). The film goes nationwide on January 16th, the day after the Oscar nominations are announced.

The news wasn’t as rosy for the new Tim Burton film Big Eyes, which landed in fifteenth place with a tiny $4.4 million from 1,307 screens since its Christmas Day debut. The Amy Adams/Christoph Waltz drama received critical support but not much from its distributor, The Weinstein Company. Unless the film gets some serious nomination love from the Academy in a few weeks, Big Eyes will be Burton’s biggest box office dud in quite some time.

Last but not least was the truncated release of Sony’s controversial comedy The Interview. The movie that allegedly caused North Korea to hack Sony’s computer servers, which led to an international war of words, found 331 theaters to be screened in after the major theater chains pulled the feature the week before Christmas. Reviews were mostly negative for the Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy, which managed to bring in a decent $2.8 million. The film also debuted online via outlets such as the Xbox Marketplace and YouTube. Numbers were not made available for online sales of the film.

The remainder of the top ten was as follows:

6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One (Lionsgate) $10 million (+27%); $306.6 million

8. The Imitation Game (Weinstein Company) $7.9 million (+823%); $14.6 million

9. Exodus: Gods and Kings (20th Century Fox) $6.7 million (-17%); $52.5 million

10. Wild (Fox Searchlight) $5.4 million (+32%); $16.3 million

Wednesday sees the final release of 2014, A Most Violent Year while Friday offers up the first new release of 2015, The Woman in Black 2.


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