Weekend Box Office (December 13 - 15, 2013)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Audiences powered the latest Middle Earth saga The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug into the number one spot, but fewer of them took the journey this time. The Warner Bros. release opened to $73.6M, according to final studio figures, which was $11M less than the $84.6M debut for the first chapter An Unexpected Journey from this same week a year ago. That's 13% erosion.

The first installment was helped by nine years of anticipation since the last Lord of the Rings movie debuted. This time around, the second pic was not as big of an event. Also there were some who were not fully satisfied with Journey and dropped out this time. Bad weather and snowstorms in parts of the country also had an impact on the overall marketplace.

Kicking off on opening day, the new Hobbit grossed $31.2M on Friday including $8.8M from Thursday night's post-midnight shows. Saturday fell 22% to $24.4M and the studio saw Sunday drop 26% to $18M. The three-day average was $18,869 from 3,903 theaters and the 344 IMAX screens contributed $9.2M, or 13% of the gross.

3D screens accounted for 49% of the take which was identical to last year's Hobbit. But more women were lost this time around. This weekend's male share was 60%, up from the 57% for Journey last year. The CinemaScore was an A- which was a notch below the A from last time.

Overseas, Smaug was more even with Journey with a big weekend debut of $135.4M since Wednesday from 49 markets which was seven less than what Journey had in its debut frame. That put the global premiere for Smaug at $209M. Journey went on to collect over $1 billion worldwide last year. Though the domestic results for the new film are smaller, international markets are showing roughly the same interest so hitting the billion mark cannot be ruled out just yet.

Dropping one notch to second place but still doing gangbusters was the Disney smash Frozen with $22.6M for a small 29% slide. After its third weekend of wide play, the animated pic has grossed a sensational $164.8M and is running a whopping 43% ahead of the pace of 2010's Tangled at this same point in time with the same calendar. With the holiday break still to come, Frozen should race past the $250M mark domestically.

Tyler Perry's latest comedy A Madea Christmas sank to a new low and debuted in third with $16M. It was the worst opening ever for a Madea film and considerably less than the $25M neighborhood that the last two premiered in. Female-skewing comedies and dramas tend to open softer in mid-December but have better legs when audiences are finished with weekend distractions like holiday shopping. Playing in 2,194 theaters, Madea Christmas averaged $7,296 - solid, but subpar by Tyler Perry standards. The audience for the Lionsgate release was 67% female and 63% 25 and up. The CinemaScore grade was an A-.

Falling 48% in its fourth weekend was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with $13.7M boosting the cume to $357.5M. The second Katniss flick is running 6% ahead of the pace of its predecessor, however that gap is closing quickly as the sequel is seeing larger declines. The first Hunger Games grossed a much stronger $21.1M in its fourth weekend.

Catching Fire continued its stellar international run with the overseas take climbing to $372.9M and the worldwide sum reaching $740M. The new installment has now surpassed the $691M final global take of the first Hunger Games and has a shot at breaking the $800M mark with most of the growth coming from foreign markets.

Thor: The Dark World followed in fifth with $2.8M, down 41%, for a $198.2M domestic cume. The Disney release has taken in $421.8M overseas for a robust worldwide tally of $620M.

Falling 54% in its second weekend was the Christian Bale drama Out of the Furnace with $2.4M. The Relativity title has collected a measly $9.6M and looks headed for a final of about $15M.

Four films rounded out the top ten with modest grosses of under $2M each. Vince Vaughn's Delivery Man dropped 47% to $2M and has given Disney $28.1M to date. With three Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress in the Drama category, Judi Dench's Philomena held up very well sliding only 17% to $1.8M without any expansion of screens. The Weinstein Co. release has made $11.1M so far from under 900 theaters.

Fox's The Book Thief took in $1.7M, down 34%, for a modest total of $14.9M so far. The Jason Statham action entry Homefront tumbled 50% to $1.7M for $18.5M to date for Open Road.

Exploding in platform release as one of the hottest tickets in town was David O. Russell's latest film American Hustle which opened to $740,455 from only six theaters for a jaw-dropping $123,409 average. Nominated for seven Golden Globes including Best Picture - Comedy or Musical, the all-star film drew audience interest with its glowing reviews and stellar cast which includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner. Sony is well-positioned to take Hustle nationwide which happens on Friday when it expands to over 2,500 runs, though it will be a competitive frame with Paramount's launch of its all-star comedy Anchorman 2 this Wednesday in 3,400 locations.

Disney enjoyed a good limited bow of its own with the Tom Hanks-Emma Thompson pic Saving Mr. Banks which grossed $413,373 from 15 locations for a $27,558 average. The figure included a sold-out run with special $50 tickets in Southern California which included a studio tour on the Disney lot. Reviews have been good for the PG-13 film which expands nationally on Friday into 2,200 locations.

The top ten films grossed $138.4M which was up 9% from last year when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened at number one with $84.6M; and up 31% from 2011 when Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows debuted in the top spot with $39.6M.

Compared to projections, The Hobbit opened close to my $78M forecast while A Madea Christmas debuted well below my $26M prediction.

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Watch the NEW teaser trailer for Interstellar.

Check the UPDATED chart of Golden Globe nominees.

For NEW reviews of The Hobbit and American Hustle visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Anchorman 2 and Walking with Dinosaurs open.

# Title Dec 13 - 15 Dec 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug $ 73,645,197 3,903 1 $ 18,869 $ 73,645,197 Warner Bros.
2 Frozen 22,568,138 31,616,230 -28.6 3,716 4 6,073 164,772,211 Disney
3 A Madea Christmas 16,007,634 2,194 1 7,296 16,007,634 Lionsgate
4 Hunger Games: Catching Fire 13,671,666 26,185,886 -47.8 3,563 4 3,837 357,503,663 Lionsgate
5 Thor: The Dark World 2,820,055 4,811,545 -41.4 2,264 6 1,246 198,245,744 Disney
6 Out of the Furnace 2,425,978 5,220,288 -53.5 2,101 2 1,155 9,574,440 Relativity
7 Delivery Man 1,968,891 3,742,544 -47.4 2,041 4 965 28,091,575 Disney
8 Philomena 1,820,479 2,195,341 -17.1 835 4 2,180 11,083,457 Weinstein Co.
9 The Book Thief 1,734,679 2,625,623 -33.9 1,158 6 1,498 14,936,447 Fox
10 Homefront 1,706,286 3,428,440 -50.2 2,102 3 812 18,507,155 Open Road
11 Dallas Buyers Club 1,174,269 1,505,669 -22.0 574 7 2,046 14,301,134 Focus
12 The Best Man Holiday 1,055,690 2,609,890 -59.6 922 5 1,145 69,019,695 Universal
13 Nebraska 911,784 520,923 75.0 250 5 3,647 3,377,783 Paramount
14 Gravity 745,457 1,211,279 -38.5 503 11 1,482 252,779,065 Warner Bros.
15 American Hustle 740,455 6 1 123,409 740,455 Sony
16 12 Years A Slave 732,825 1,146,959 -36.1 497 9 1,474 36,364,513 Fox Searchlight
17 Last Vegas 606,753 1,265,334 -52.0 726 7 836 61,757,975 CBS
18 Saving Mr. Banks 413,373 15 1 27,558 413,373 Disney
19 Inside Llewyn Davis 356,785 405,411 -12.0 15 2 23,786 910,317 CBS
20 Captain Phillips 290,176 510,201 -43.1 323 10 898 104,017,034 Sony
Top 5 $ 128,712,690 $ 71,576,493 79.8
Top 10 138,369,003 83,941,456 64.8
Top 20 145,396,570 91,675,091 58.6
Top 20 vs. 2012 145,396,570 134,523,469 8.1

Last Updated: December 17, 2013 at 11:30AM ET

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