Weekend Box Office: Holiday Holdovers Help Kickstart 2015

2015 got off to a solid start at the North American box office this weekend as Warner’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies led the charge again for a third straight week. The blockbuster held off the frame’s sole newcomer, Relativity’s The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death, Disney’s Into the Woods and Universal’s Unbreakable. Business for the top ten was up eight percent over last year at this time, which was welcome news for an industry coming out of its worst-attended year in over two decades.

Despite sliding 46% from last weekend’s totals The Battle Of the Five Armies still ruled the multiplexes with a $21.9 million estimated haul from 3,875 screens. The domestic total for the final Hobbit film currently stands at $220.8 million. The Bilbo blockbuster crossed the $200 million mark on Friday, making it the eighth biggest hit of 2014.

Armies is still running ahead of last year’s Desolation of Smaug by approximately 20% and even with An Unexpected Journey. The Hobbit finale is on track to finish its domestic run around the $270 million mark, an improvement over Smaug’s $258 million but below Journey’s $303 million. Overseas, the movie has pulled in an excellent $502 million. With China opening the film in three weeks time The Battle of the Five Armies has a very good shot at clearing the one billion dollar mark by the end of its global run.

People continued to turn out in big numbers for Disney’s hit musical Into the Woods. The Rob Marshall feature eased only 39% to land in second place while earning a tuneful $19 million from 2,538 theaters. After two weeks, the $50 million production has earned a great $91.2 million. Should the movie be shown some Oscar nomination love in two weeks the final domestic total for Woods could land near $140 million.

Another possible Oscar contender that has struck a cord with viewers is Universal’s biopic Unbroken. The Angelina Jolie-directed feature was only off 40% to finish in third place with $18.3 million from 3,190 screens. Its two-week total is $87.8 million. Like Woods, Unbroken should be able to sprint to the domestic finish line with $140 million, possibly more, should the Academy bestow the film with some nominations.

Back in February 2012 CBS Films scored a hit with the British horror film The Woman In Black. Directed by James Watkins and starring Daniel Radcliffe, Woman scared up a solid $54.3 million domestically and another $73.3 million globally. With such a healthy return on investment, it comes as no surprise that a sequel has surfaced.

While the $15.1 million opening on 2,602 screens for The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death was higher than anticipated given that Radcliffe is not in the sequel, chances are pretty good that the follow up will not match its predecessor financially. Reviews for the second installment, which stars Jeremy Irvine and Helen McCrory, were largely negative and ticket buyers didn’t seem to care much for the film either.

Not only did viewers polled by CinemaScore give the movie a “C” rating, they also spread some toxic word-of-mouth among their friends. Friday’s opening was a strong $7.75 million, but it was also more than half of its opening weekend haul. Saturday slid 36% to $4.9 million while Sunday’s estimated drop is a big 50%. Even if the film is a distant memory by next weekend, Relativity Pictures should still be happy with its performance. After all, the studio only spent $1 million for the North American distribution rights.

Rounding out the top five was Fox’s family hit Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. The Ben Stiller comedy earned an additional $14.4 million from 3,802 theaters in its third weekend, which helped bring its Stateside total to $89.7 million. Foreign grosses currently stand at $91.1 million. A final domestic gross near $115 million is possible for the Shawn Levy production.

The remainder of the top ten was as follows:

  1. Annie (Sony) $11.4 million (-31%); $72.6 million
  2. The Imitation Game (Weinstein) $8.1 million (+2.3%); $30.8 million
  3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One $7.7 million (-23%); $323.8 million
  4. The Gambler (Paramount) $6.3 million (-31%); $27.5 million
  5. Big Hero 6 (Disney) $4.8 million (-4%); $211.2 million

Limited releases continued to do standout business this weekend. A24 opened the critically acclaimed Oscar Isaac/Jessica Chastain drama A Most Violent Year on four screens in New York and Los Angeles December 31st to successful numbers. With an 89% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, Year scored a great $300,000 in its first five days. The studio will expand the J.C. Chandor film throughout the month of January.

Warner’s American Sniper actually improved on its record opening, a sign that word-of-mouth has been quite strong. Still on four screens, the latest Clint Eastwood directorial effort earned $640,000 this weekend. Its two-week total now stands at $2.2 million. Paramount’s Selma also remained strong. The Martin Luther King Jr. drama rose 13% from last weekend to gross $645,000 on only 22 screens. Its total currently stands at $2.1 million. Both films go into wide release over the next two weeks.

The news wasn’t as rosy for the controversial comedy The Interview, which added 250 additional screens this weekend while expanding to Video On Demand outlets such as Comcast and Verizon FIOS. Despite the additional screen exposure, the Seth Rogen/James Franco feature slid 40% to $1.1 million for the three-day period. It’s theatrical gross stands just shy of $5 million.

Finally, it is looking like Groot and Rocket are going to have to give up the title of 2014’s biggest hit. Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One received a second wind during the holiday frame. As reported above, the sequel earned $7.7 million this weekend, which put the Katniss sequel just shy of $324 million. Needing only another ten million to pass Guardians of the Galaxy’s $333 million Mockingjay Part One should become the number one film of 2014 within the next week or so.

Next weekend sees the arrival of the Liam Neeson sequel Taken 3, which should have no problem taking the number one spot away from The Hobbit. Neeson will be joined by the nationwide expansion of Selma and the 400-screen launch of Warner’s Inherent Vice, which has been in limited release for the past month.

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