After opening on Wednesday, Warner Bros.’ The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies remained the clear box office winner in its first weekend – earning more than three times what Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb claimed in second. That gives the final chapter in The Hobbit trilogy a five-day domestic total of over $90 million, which is in line with pre-release expectations. In contrast, Night at the Museum 3 started a bit slow, especially compared to fellow new release Annie. Sony’s remake of the family musical came within $1 million of second place and earned a higher per-screen average than its bigger-budget Friday competition, despite opening in 669 fewer locations.
|1.||The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies||$56,220,000||$90.6|
|2.||Night at the Museum 3||$17,300,000||$17.3|
|4.||Exodus: Gods and Kings||$8,065,000||$38.9|
|5.||Mockingjay – Part 1||$7,750,000||$289.2|
|8.||Big Hero 6||$3,563,000||$190.4|
|9.||Penguins of Madagascar||$3,525,000||$64.1|
Full story after the jump.
Though there were three new movies out this weekend, most eyes were on Battle of the Five Armies – the final chapter in one of the most beloved series of the past fifteen years: Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies. Beginning with the first Lord of the Rings title in December 2001, the six adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work have earned over $5 billion worldwide – not adjusted for inflation. That tops both the Star Wars and Batman franchises. In fact, only Harry Potter films has a higher franchise total.
While the three original Lord of the Rings films, culminating with the 2003 Academy Award winner The Return of the King, are generally viewed with more critical favor, there is no doubt that The Hobbit trilogy has been a powerful box office draw.
Back in December 2012, the first Hobbit feature launched in 4,045 locations and in four formats: 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D and High Frame Rate 3D. An Unexpected Journey ended up breaking all December-opening records, including those for its first-day, weekend and midnight debuts. The film went on to spend three weekends at number one, earning $303 million in the US and over $1 billion worldwide. Keeping those numbers in mind, it may be hard to remember that the Journey was initially considered an underperformer.
With its obvious connection to The Lord of the Rings franchise, expectations for Journey were a bit inflated. Journey wound up debuting with $84.7 million, where most projections had put it closer $100 million in its first three days. To be clear, Journey did top all three LOTR debuts (not adjusted for inflation), but because 50% of the film’s profits came from higher-priced 3D venues (not available when LOTR was released), its failure to hit $100 million appeared notable.
With that in mind, last December’s The Desolation of Smaug seemed an even bigger miss. The Hobbit 2 brought in $73.6 million on its first weekend, on its way to a final domestic total of $258.3 million. Because each of the LOTR features opened above the film that preceded it, Smaug’s debut, once again, underwhelmed. Of course by last year the international box office had hit its stride, so The Hobbit 2 ended up with a giant global cume of $958 million. It would be misleading to try to draw a straight-forward comparison between the three Hobbit films’ domestic debuts – only The Battle of the Five Armies opened on Wednesday instead of Friday – but in terms of those not-at-all analogous five-day comps, Battle came out ahead of Smaug’s $86.1 million but behind Journey’s $100.2 million. With lots of holiday left to cover (and one less title to compete with, thanks to the sudden demise of The Interview) The Hobbit 3 should have no trouble dominating the December box office: One Last Time.
The other major threequel out this holiday season was not as lucky as Bilbo Baggins. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is the third entry in Fox’s Night at the Museum franchise, which earned over $987 million worldwide from its first two features. Unfortunately, it’s been six years since Battle of the Smithsonian, the last Museum title, was in theatres. In the meantime, Ben Stiller has headlined a series of box disappointments, including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, last Christmas, and 2010’s Little Fockers. Like Secret of the Tomb, Little Fockers was the third chapter of a franchise (Meet the Parents) that arrived in theatres far past its box office sell-by date.
Luckily for Universal, a lack of direct competition wound up propelling Little Fockers to a profitable final gross – more proof that Christmas is a time of box office miracles. With Annie coming out stronger than expected this weekend it is far from certain that Night at The Museum 3 will wind up with a similarly passable domestic run (international numbers are another story). We’ll just have to wait and see if there’s room for two family-friendly winners this season – or three, once Into the Woods hits on Christmas Day.