Weekend Box Office: THE HOBBIT 3 Claims Second Title on Strongest Post-Christmas Frame of All Time

     December 28, 2014

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After posting one of the strongest Christmas Day totals of the last decade, the domestic box office went on to claim the best post-holiday frame ever this weekend with over $208 million in overall earnings.  That tops the all-time record from 2009: the year that Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel dominated the chart.  On this historic weekend, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies claimed its second consecutive top ten title with an estimated $41.4 million, while new releases Into the Woods and Unbroken each brought in over $31 million in what proved to be a very close race for second place.

 Title Weekend Total
1.  The Hobbit 3 $41,400,000 $168.5
2.  Unbroken $31,748,000 $47.3
3.  Into the Woods $31,021,000 $46.1
4.  Night at the Museum 3 $20,600,000 $55.3
5.  Annie $16,600,000 $45.8
6.  Mockingjay – Part 1 $10,000,000 $306.6
7.  The Gambler $9,300,000 $14.3
8.  The Imitation Game $7,930,000 $14.6
9.  Exodus: Gods & Kings $6,750,000 $52.5
10.  Wild $5,415,000 $16.3

 

Full story after the jump.

unbroken-movie-poster-2We’ve reached the end of a very odd year at the domestic box office.  And, while there was little doubt that the final Hobbit feature would be a success, I’m not sure many people saw record-breaking openings in the cards for Into the Woods and Unbroken.  In the end, each of this weekend’s top three films earned more than originally projected, which comports well with 2014’s overall box office vibe: unpredictable to the very end.

Despite falling to third on Christmas Day, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies had no trouble holding on to first place for a second weekend.  Peter Jackson’s final trip to Middle Earth was down approximately 24% in its sophomore frame, which is a giant improvement over the 57% decline that The Desolation of Smaug experienced in its second weekend last year.  So far, The Hobbit 3 has earned $168.5 million in North America over 13 days, putting it about 15% ahead of its predecessor at the same point.  Worldwide, the film has earned $495.9 million, which puts it almost halfway towards An Unexpected Journey’s final global cume of $1.017 billion.

After coming out on top on Christmas Day, Unbroken fell to second place on the weekend chart.  Despite less-than-stellar reviews, the inspirational biopic from director Angelina Jolie clearly connected with audiences.  As on Christmas Day, Unbroken’s per-screen average ($10,140) trailed that of Into the Woods ($12,174) but, considering that most projections had the film opening in third place with no more than $25 million, that is not a number that Universal execs will be sweating.  Assuming the film holds well over 2015’s first frame, Unbroken should reach a final domestic gross of $150 million.

into-the-woods-motion-poster-anna-kendrickFor the second year in a row, Disney claimed a strong post-Christmas box office showing with a musical.  Last year it was Frozen, which earned second place with $28.6 million in the film’s sixth weekend.  Of course, Frozen was a box office anomaly in every sense, which makes any comparison to Into the Woods hugely unfair.  In fact, the Rob Marshall-directed musical is probably closer to Universal’s Les Miserables than Disney’s animated blockbuster.  On this weekend in 2012, Les Miserables also claimed third place with its $27.2 million debut – the same range that Into the Woods was expected to fall.  Both musicals earned Rotten Tomatoes scores of 70%, which suggests that Into the Woods is headed for a final domestic cume in line with the $148 million Les Mis reached by the end of its run.

Counterprogramming this season’s family-friendly offerings, The Gambler did about as well as could be expected.  The R-rated crime drama opened on Christmas Day with a relatively strong $5 million and went on to earn an estimated $9.3 million for its first full weekend.  That doesn’t come close to the $37.8 million that star Mark Wahlberg realized with January’s Lone Survivor, but it is about where this lightly-marketed and relatively low budget ($25 million) Paramount release was projected to open.

big-eyes-posterThe strength of this weekend’s holdovers played a big part in securing the frame’s record-setting total.  Both Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Annie improved upon their opening weekend totals on their sophomore frames.  Night at the Museum 3 jumped more than 20% while Sony’s Annie remake increased nearly 5%.  Those are the kind of gains that the Christmas box office is known for.  In fact, Frozen was up 45% on its own post-Christmas weekend last year.  That’s just one reason the Christmas season is so lucrative for studios and distributors: it’s one of the few times of the year when a film’s opening weekend does not determine its future success.

And speaking of success, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 crossed the $300 million mark on Friday – making it only the second film of 2014 to reach that level.  Though the film could still overtake the $332.7 million of Guardians of the Galaxy by the end of its run to become 2014’s highest-grossing release, it will not do so before the new year arrives.

Outside of this weekend top ten, two debuts merit special mention.  First, The Interview – the controversial comedy that was sentenced to sit on Sony’s shelf before a handful of independent theatres announced they were willing to screen the film.  From its 331 locations, The Interview earned an estimated $1.8 million this weekend, or $5,471 per screen.  Totals for the film’s day-and-date VOD release were not available as of Sunday a.m.  Finally, TWC’s Big Eyes opened with an estimated $2.9 million from 1,307 locations.  That equals less than half the per-screen average of The Interview and bodes poorly for the Tim Burton pic’s log-term box office prospects.

Thanks to its excellent post-Christmas performance, The Battle of the Five Armies should be able to hold on to first place on 2015’s inaugural weekend.  That would give the final Hobbit film three straight weeks in first place, equaling the record of both 2012’s An Unexpected Journey and last year’s Desolation of Smaug.  As usual, we’ll bring you full box office results next weekend.

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