Box Office: Deja vu as ‘Hobbit’ sneaks by ‘Frozen’

Does this weekend’s box office result sound a tad familiar?  “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” sneaks by “Frozen” as the top grossing movie in America.  Yes, that’s the same outcome two weekends ago when Peter Jackson’s second installment of his “Hobbit” trilogy first debuted in theaters.  A slew of new releases have entered the marketplace and outside of last weekend when “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” bumped “Frozen” to no. 3, moviegoers have clearly told Hollywood what they are looking for this holiday season.

17 days into its run “The Hobbit” is still tracking an eye-popping $31 million behind the first chapter of the trilogy, but with another $29.8 million this past weekend it’s earned $190 million domestic so far. That is actually down just 5.3% from the previous weekend showing nice legs for the Middle Earth epic.

Walt Disney’s “Frozen” continued its own remarkable performance at no. 2 as the princess tale cornered the market as the no. 1 choice among families for the holidays. The best animated Oscar frontrunner came in at no. 2 jumping a staggering 46% in its sixth weekend for another $28.8 million and $248.3 million to date. “Frozen” is already Walt Disney Animation’s highest grossing movie after “The Lion King” and could knock Pixar’s “Up” for no. 7 all-time.  Overall, a huge win for John Lasseter and the Mouse House.

If “Frozen” is the top pick among families, than “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is easily the preferred choice for adults under 35.  The long-awaited sequel pulled in another $20.1 million for $83.6 million in just 12 days. “Anchorman 2” should easily reach nine figures and is star Will Ferrell’s first $100 million grosser since 2010’s “The Other Guys” (a more common occurrence for the former “SNL” star in the ’00s).

Also playing to adults is David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” which took the fourth spot. The best picture contender had the second highest per screen average in the top 10 behind “Frozen” and danced its way to another $19.5 million and $60 million domestic. The ensemble dramedy will also easily hit $100 million and has a chance to surpass Russell’s previous picture, “The Silver Linings Playbook,” which earned $132 million last year.

Slowing down somewhat in fifth is the now “controversial” Martin Scorsese drama “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Based on the true story of a convicted Wall Street felon, the three-hour epic had a strong Christmas Day debut with $9.1 million, but has faded since.  It scammed $18.5 million for the three-day and has grossed $34.3 million in just five days. Independently financed and distributed by Paramount Pictures in the U.S., the $100 million budgeted “Wolf” is going to need to earn a minimum of $250 million globally to even sniff at profitability long term.

Don’t call it a comeback, but the female and family skewing audience for “Saving Mr. Banks” was finally free to help the dramedy jump 50% from last weekend’s results. “Banks” brought in $14 million in the sixth slot and now has $37.4 million in the, um, bank so far.  This has turned out to be a big lesson for Walt Disney Studios. “Banks” plays wonderfully and had positive reviews, but the three-weekend Christmas shopping season significantly hurt and it also did not receive the top Golden Globe Awards nominations the studio was hoping for. “Banks” may continue to play for the next few months thanks to good word of mouth and a possible spoonful of Oscar nominations, but it’s not the $125 million grosser many in the industry thought it might be.

One of the biggest misfires of the holidays is 20th Century Fox’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”  Ben Stiller’s adaptation of the classic short story pulled in $13 million for $25.5 million so far. “Mitty” was miscast as a potential awards season player, but critics simply didn’t see it (it’s also now one of the most embarrassing premieres at the New York Film Festival in recent years).  By the time Fox realized it needed a major change in marketing strategy it was too late to turn the tide. Moreover, “Mitty” is simply a movie that needed a less competitive marketplace to find a significant audience.  Fox will attempt to break even on the $90 million dramatic fantasy overseas if it can.

Speaking of bombs, the two biggest ones of the Christmas season are Universal Pictures’ “47 Ronin” and Warner Bros’ Stallone vs. De Niro “Grudge Match.”  The former reportedly cost over $200 million and is now at just $20 million over its first five days.  The latter cost only $40 million, but with just $13.3 million in its first five days its clear WB made a rare and major miscalculation.

Among other notable releases, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” jumped to 975 theaters (technically nationwide) and pulled in another $2.4 million for $4.7 million to date. As many noted after its Toronto premiere in September, The Weinstein Company would have been wiser to open this drama in the late winter or Spring.  Another film audiences have had to wait for since Toronto is “August: Osage County.”  The Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts drama earned $179,500 in just five theaters for a good $35,900 per screen. Weinstein and producer George Clooney will hope for more commercial results when it open nationwide on Jan. 10.

In happier news for TWC, “Philomena” continued to have great legs as it earned $1.8 million and $16.5 million so far in just 727 theaters. If the Steve Coogan scripted dramedy can snag a best picture nomination TWC might just have another profitable awards season hit on its hands. 

“Inside Llewyn Davis” continued a very good limited run with another $1.2 million in just 161 theaters for $4.6 million.  Jumping to 47 theaters, Spike Jonze’s critically acclaimed “Her” found a sublime $645,000 or $13,723 per screen for $1.5 million.

Under the radar somewhat, but still impressive was the limited debut for Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor.” The Mark Wahlberg thriller found $92,500 or $46,250 on just two screens.  Both “Lone Survivor” and “Her” expand nationwide on Jan. 10.

The only new wide release next weekend is “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.”

Box office actuals are released on Monday.