The Hobbit Goes Three-for-Three in Year-Opening Box Office

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The first weekend of the new year continued the strong holiday showing at the box office with many returning movies holding up well and a low-key horror sequel faring better than some expected, while Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (New Line/WB) followed in the path of its previous installment by remaining in first place for a third weekend in a row. It grossed an estimated $21.9 million this weekend, down 46% in its third weekend, and it’s grossed $220.8 million so far domestically, making it the twelfth movie of 2014 to gross more than $200 million.

It has grossed $30 million more in three weeks than The Desolation of Smaug did, although any comparisons need to take a few things into account, including that the second chapter opened a week earlier so it only had only a few days of holiday business compared to the new movie. By January 4, Desolation of Smaug had grossed $225 million, so the third movie is right on par to gross roughly the same by the time it leaves theaters.    

As far as the returning Christmas openers, the musical adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s fairy tale mash-up Into the Woods, starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, James Corden and more, held up the best with a second place showing of $19.1 million, down 38% from its opening weekend, having grossed a solid $91 million so far.

Its main competition, the Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken (Universal) dropped 40% in its second weekend to take third place with $18.4 million and $87.8 million total.

The one new movie in wide release this weekend, the horror sequel The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death (Relativity) opened in 2,602 theaters, bringing in $1.5 million from Thursday previews and $7.8 million on Friday. It was heavily frontloaded though, as it only ended up with $15.2 million for the weekend or $5,822 per location, enough to open in fourth place.  

The finale to the Ben Stiller family franchise Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (20th Century Fox) took fifth place with $14.5 million (down 28%) with a total domestic gross of less than $90 million so far.

The other holiday musical, Annie (Sony), dropped to sixth place with $11.4 million and $72.6 million grossed to date in North America.

Moving up to seventh place, the Benedict Cumberbatch-Keira Knightley period drama The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company) was one of the few movies that made more this weekend than last, up 2% for a weekend take of $8.1 million with $30.8 million grossed so far.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Lionsgate) took eighth place with $7.7 million as it edges closer to the current 2014 box office winner Guardians of the Galaxy with $323.8 million grossed domestically so far. That’s still well behind last year’s Catching Fire, which had already crossed the $400 million mark by the end of the holidays and it’s doubtful Mockingjay – Part 1 can achieve that benchmark. These are the two biggest movies of 2014 without any movie earning more than $400 million, whereas 2013 saw three movies cross that mark. 

Paramount Pictures’ The Gambler remake starring Mark Wahlberg dropped to ninth place with $6.3 million (down 31%) with a gross of $27.6 million.

Disney’s Big Hero 6 moved back into the Top 10 with $4.8 million with a domestic gross of $211 million since opening in early November, while Reese Witherspoon’s Wild (Fox Searchlight) took 11th place with $4.5 million and a total of $25.8 million. 

The Top 10 was up about $14 million from the same weekend last year when Frozen moved back into the top spot with $19.3 million and the horror spin-off Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones opened in second place with $18.3 million.

Opening on Wednesday in four theaters, J.C. Chandor’s crime-drama A Most Violent Year (A24), starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, grossed $188,000 over the weekend or $47,000 per venue.

As far as the returning limited releases, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (Warner Bros.), starring Bradley Cooper, had another fantastic weekend, adding another $640,000 from just four locations or $160,000 per site with $2.1 million grossed so far. It will expand nationwide on January 16.

Expanding nationwide this coming Friday, Selma (Paramount), starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr., also held up well, taking in $645,000 from its 22 locations. The film has $2.1 million banked before it gets a wide release.