Weekend Box Office (January 2 - 4, 2015)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Just like its predecessors, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies spent a third consecutive weekend at number one ruling over a strong marketplace. The final Middle Earth film rang in the new year with $21.7M, according to final studio figures, dropping a sizable 47% from the post-Christmas frame. To date, the Peter Jackson epic has collected a stellar $220.6M domestically and looks on course to reach the vicinity of $260M by the end of its North American run. That would edge out the $258.4M of the last film The Desolation of Smaug but fall below the $303M of the first chapter of the trilogy, An Unexpected Journey which was the fantasy franchise's first film in nine years. The threequel should see rapid erosion in the weeks ahead now that the holidays are over and fans have already seen it.

Overseas, Armies smashed the $500M international mark this weekend with continued success in Europe and around the world. The weekend saw $54M from 65 markets boosting the offshore tally to $504.7M and the global gross to $725M. China opens on January 23 so surpassing $800M and $900M will be no problem. Leading international markets are Germany with $68.9M, the U.K. with $57.4M, and France with $42M. However, those totals are all lower than Smaug's at this same point last year despite the same number of weekends.

The Disney musical Into The Woods won another close battle for second place with $18.7M in its second weekend, off 40%. Meryl Streep and her co-stars had a red hot holiday week and have raised the cume to a stellar $90.9M in 11 days. A final north of $120M is likely. That is a formidable amount considering the PG-rated pic is playing in the fewest theaters among the top six movies nationwide. Average is a sturdy $7,379 from 2,538 locations.

A hair behind was Universal's war drama Unbroken with $18.2M, off a similar 41%. The Angelina Jolie-directed film has banked $87.7M to date and should be able to clear at least $115M by the end of its run. Woods has fared better with critics, but Unbroken has scored higher marks with paying audiences.

The weekend's only new release found itself opening in fourth place. Relativity's horror sequel The Woman in Black 2 debuted to $15M from 2,602 locations for a good $5,775 average. While not big, it was still above modest expectations going into the weekend. The PG-13 thriller follows the first hit film which opened to a strong $20.9M over Super Bowl weekend in 2012 led by Daniel Radcliffe in his first major role since the end of the Harry Potter franchise. The haunted house sequel features a new cast and takes place 40 years later.

Reviews were mostly negative which is common for horror sequels. Exit polls showed that first-day audiences were 53% female, 65% under 25, and 62% non-white. The CinemaScore grade was a C which is mediocre for a spooky thriller. With November and December usually filled with cheery, upbeat films, the first weekend of January traditionally is a good time to bring back scary movies as distributors usually do each year. With Friday being a day off for many people (especially the target audience of teens and young adults) it accounted for a whopping 52% of the weekend gross as Saturday tumbled 36%. A fast fade is likely.

PG-rated holdovers offering clean fun for the whole family followed. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb dipped 28% to $14.5M for Fox lifting the cume to $89.8M. Final should reach about $110M which would be the lowest in the series following the $250.9M and $177.2M of the first two installments. The updated Annie dropped 32% to $11.3M giving Sony a solid $72.5M to date. That is an impressive total for a critically-panned musical that was also pirated online as part of the studio being hacked. A $90M final seems likely.

The Weinstein Co. continued to see sensational results from its big horse in this year's Oscar race. Benedict Cumberbatch's The Imitation Game grossed $7.8M, off 2%, for a new total of $30.5M with much more ahead of it. The computer genius pic boasted what was by far the best per-theater average of any film in wide release with $10,308 from 754 locations. Expect strong sales throughout January boosted by a handful of expected Academy Award nominations.

A terrific holiday season has now put The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 on course to surpass Guardians of the Galaxy to become the top-grossing domestic blockbuster from 2014. The latest Katniss adventure took in $7.6M, off 25%, for a new cume of $323.7M putting it only about $9M behind the Marvel smash which had the added benefit of 3D and IMAX prices. Mockingjay should end its domestic run near $340M. Its current global tally rose to $695M with China still to open next month so a $750M final is possible with the final film set to release in November.

Earning low audience scores, The Gambler dropped 31% to $6.3M for a new total of $27.6M for Paramount. Disney's hot toon Big Hero 6 jumped back into the top ten at number ten with $4.8M, off a scant 5%. With $211.2M to date, the popular animated film has surpassed the studio's recent holiday season toons like Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled. Global tally for Baymax is now $378.6M with Japan leading overseas markets with $34.6M. Several major territories will open across January and February so there is much more ahead.

There was plenty of action below the top ten with films in more limited release. The controversial comedy The Interview added 250 more theaters in its second weekend but also saw its digital release add cable and satellite providers for more in-home availability. The theatrical gross fell 40% to $1.1M while its per-theater average tumbled 66% to $1,868. Cume for Sony is $5M and the studio did not have an update on gross sales from non-theatrical revenue streams.

The critically acclaimed drama A Most Violent Year platformed on Wednesday, December 31, in order to make the Oscar deadline and enjoyed a strong start with $172,788 from four sites for a potent $43,197 average. Total over five days is $286,046 for A24. Paramount's MLK drama Selma added three theaters and enjoyed a 11% bump to $633,173 for a solid $28,781 average in its second weekend. Cume is $2.1M and the studio expands nationwide this Friday against the opening of Taken 3.

Clint Eastwood's new film American Sniper once again generated one of the best averages of all-time in its second weekend of platform play in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. The Warner Bros. pic grossed $676,909 for a jaw-dropping $169,227 weekend average lifting the sum to $2.2M. The studio is waiting until January 16 to go nationwide once Oscar nods are announced.

The top ten films grossed $125.8M which was up 6% from last year when Frozen returned to number one with $19.6M; and up 8% from 2013 when Texas Chainsaw 3D opened in the top spot with $21.7M.

Compared to projections, The Woman in Black 2 opened ahead of my $9M forecast.

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Check the UPDATED chart of Golden Globe nominees.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Taken 3 opens.

# Title Jan 2 - 4 Dec 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies $ 21,732,090 $ 40,921,395 -46.9 3,875 3 $ 5,608 $ 220,602,017 Warner Bros.
2 Into The Woods 18,728,441 31,051,923 -39.7 2,538 2 7,379 90,871,655 Disney
3 Unbroken 18,169,840 30,621,445 -40.7 3,190 2 5,696 87,651,495 Universal
4 The Woman in Black 2 15,027,415 2,602 1 5,775 15,027,415 Relativity
5 Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb 14,518,274 20,202,008 -28.1 3,802 3 3,819 89,847,179 Fox
6 Annie 11,251,393 16,474,065 -31.7 3,166 3 3,554 72,460,370 Sony
7 The Imitation Game 7,772,527 7,932,292 -2.0 754 6 10,308 30,472,090 Weinstein Co.
8 Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1 7,559,954 10,063,425 -24.9 2,505 7 3,018 323,734,502 Lionsgate
9 The Gambler 6,332,559 9,129,999 -30.6 2,494 2 2,539 27,601,711 Paramount
10 Big Hero 6 4,754,816 5,006,485 -5.0 1,913 9 2,486 211,207,036 Disney
11 Wild 4,564,093 5,389,214 -15.3 1,361 5 3,353 25,880,904 Fox Searchlight
12 Exodus: Gods and Kings 3,817,643 6,713,921 -43.1 2,260 4 1,689 61,342,935 Fox
13 Penguins of Madagascar 2,895,767 3,274,134 -11.6 1,585 6 1,827 78,116,780 Fox
14 Big Eyes 2,610,026 3,001,738 -13.0 1,408 2 1,854 9,924,025 Weinstein Co.
15 Interstellar 2,460,071 3,002,658 -18.1 1,048 9 2,347 182,802,094 Paramount
16 Top Five 2,139,861 3,639,210 -41.2 1,195 4 1,791 23,740,325 Paramount
17 The Theory of Everything 1,106,331 1,221,261 -9.4 651 9 1,699 24,772,350 Focus
18 The Interview 1,085,515 1,794,666 -39.5 581 2 1,868 4,960,726 Sony
19 Horrible Bosses 2 928,619 1,455,710 -36.2 702 6 1,323 53,063,469 Warner Bros.
20 Foxcatcher 903,000 947,000 -4.6 298 8 3,030 7,943,000 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 88,176,060 $ 139,270,836 -36.7
Top 10 125,847,309 178,499,687 -29.5
Top 20 148,358,235 203,548,388 -27.1
Top 20 vs. 2014 148,358,235 136,717,307 8.5

Last Updated: January 6, 2015 at 11:30AM ET

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