The last full weekend before the Christmas holiday break picked up from past weeks with three new wide releases including two finales to long-running franchises, one faring better than the other.
Nearly 15 years since taking on the Middle-earth books by J.R.R. Tolkien, filmmaker Peter Jackson brought the epic series to a close with the finale to his prequel trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (New Line/WB), once again starring Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly and more.
After opening on Tuesday night with $11.2 million in previews, it grossed $24.4 million in its first day (including the amount from previews) and grossed just under $10 million on Thursday. On Friday, it scored $16.6 million, paving the way for an opening weekend of $56.2 million and $90.6 million in its first five days.
While that is more than what the prequel trilogy’s first installment The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey grossed in its first three days, it’s down quite dramatically from the opening weekends of the “Lord of the Rings” movies, all but the first of which grossed over $60 million in their opening weekends despite opening on the Wednesday before Christmas. They also didn’t have the benefit of higher 3D and IMAX ticket prices as “The Hobbit” has had, so we’ll have to see if the last chapter manages to achieve the $258 million grossed by the previous movie.
The Battle of the Five Armies opened last week internationally in select territories including the UK, Germany and Russia, and this weekend, it added more territories like South Korea and Spain where it added $105 million. That brings its overseas gross to $265 million with $355 million in global gross since opening 12 days ago. Domestically, it grossed $13.6 million on 360 domestic IMAX screens and another $6.5 million on international IMAX screens, its $20.1 million IMAX opening setting a new December record for the company.
Opening in second place was the end to Ben Stiller’s family comedy franchise, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (20th Century Fox), directed by Shawn Levy and co-starring Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Dan Stevens and the late Robin Williams. It grossed an estimated $17.3 million in 3,784 theaters, or roughly $4,572 per site, a bad start for the sequel to Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, which opened with $54 million over Memorial Day weekend in 2009, grossing $177.2 million domestic and $417 million worldwide.
While there’s a good chance the movie can pick up business with the school holiday break coming up, it’s going to be a struggle to even get to $100 million, a disappointing conclusion to a once-profitable family franchise.
It was thought that opening two family movies on the same day would hurt both of them, but the latest movie based on the musical Annie (Sony), starring Qhvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne, held up fine against Night at the Museum with $16.3 million in 600 fewer theaters to end up with a higher per-theater average for the weekend.
Last week’s #1 movie, Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings (20th Century Fox), starring Christian Bale and Joel Egerton, took a massive plunge in its second weekend, dropping to fourth place with $8.1 million, down 66% from its opening weekend to bring its total to $38.9 million in ten days.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Lionsgate) dropped down to fifth place with $7.8 million and $289.2 million grossed domestically. It’s still $81 million behind last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at the same point in the season, although it should pass $300 million with ease with the booming holiday box office coming up.
The Cheryl Strayed movie Wild (Fox Searchlight), starring Reese Witherspoon, expanded nationwide into 1,061 theaters, enough to give it a bump up the Top 10 into 6th place with $4.2 million, bringing its domestic total to $7.2 million.
The next three movies in the Top 10 was a tight race between Chris Rock’s Top Five (Paramount), Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Big Hero 6 and DreamWorks Animation’s Penguins of Madagascar (distributed by 20th Century Fox), all of which made in the range of $3.5 million this weekend. Big Hero 6 is the only one having any sort of impact, having grossed $190 million since opening in early November. It also added another $11.5 million overseas to bring its global total to $272 million.
The Bollywood film P.K. (UTV), directed by Rajkumar Hirani and starring superstar Aamir Khan, rounded out the Top 10 with $3.5 million in just 272 theaters or $12,900 per site.
The $124 million grossed by the top 10 was down about $11 million from the same pre-Christmas weekend last year when Will Ferrell’s return as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was the top new movie with $27 million, taking second place behind The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
Mike Leigh’s new movie Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Timothy Spall, opened in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles, where it grossed $108,000 or $21,600 per theater. That was on par with Leigh’s last film Another Year, which opened over the holidays in 2010.