Box Office: Holiday Winners and Losers

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
'Unbroken'

Christmas wishes come true for the likes of 'Hobbit,' 'Into the Woods' and 'Unbroken,' while 'Exodus' is among a handful of films finding coal in their stockings; specialty contenders 'American Sniper,' 'Imitation Game' and 'Selma' shine

War films, musicals, assorted biopics, a trip to the British Museum and the final film in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy sparked a much-needed rebound at the North American box office over the year-end holidays as a number of titles overperformed.

The brisk pace of moviegoing even helped to calm frayed nerves in the wake of the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment which cast a shadow over the controversial Christmas Day comedy The Interview, which ended up getting a limited release in theaters and on VOD. Several specialty titles also prospered as awards season heated up, led by The Imitation Game, which expanded nationwide over Christmas. Here, The Hollywood Reporter looks at 2014's biggest holiday winners and losers at the box office.

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WINNERS

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Dec. 17)
The tentpole has stayed No. 1 for three consecutive weekends, both domestically and abroad, with a global gross of $722.9 million through Jan. 4. Bets are that Five Armies will ultimately cross $1 billion for New Line/Warner Bros. and MGM.

Into the Woods (Dec. 25)
Disney has struck again. The fairy tale mashup is already one of the most successful big-screen musicals of all time in the U.S., not accounting for inflation. Through Jan. 4, Into the Woods sang its way to a domestic gross of $91.2 million and surely tht made life difficult for Sony's musical Annie, which opened Dec. 19. Still, Annie is no slouch, grossing $72.6 million in North America through Jan. 4, although Fox's family film Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which also opened Dec. 19, fared better, earning $90 million domestically domestically, and more than $180 million worldwide. Annie, whose global total is presently $89.5 million, did cost less — its budget was $65 million — than Secret of the Tomb, which cost $125 million.

Unbroken (Dec. 25)
Like Into the Woods, Angelina Jolie's second directorial effort is a genre-buster, and has quickly landed high up on the list of top-grossing World War II-themed dramas, grossing $87.8 million to date in North America. War films can be a tough sell, but this Christmas, both Unbroken, from Universal, and Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, from Warners, enjoyed a boost because of their patriotic and heroic themes. American Sniper also opened Dec. 25, but only in four theaters. It has earned an exceptional $2.3 million to date. Warner Bros. expands Sniper nationwide Jan. 16.

Read more Perverted Wolves, Cheating Wives and a Fired 10-Year-Old: The Dark Path to Disney's 'Into the Woods'

The Imitation Game (Nov. 28)
Harvey Weinstein's team waited until Christmas Day to expand the biopic nationwide, and the strategy paid off. Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as famed WWII codebreaker Alan Turing, quickly cracked the top 10 chart, despite playing in fewer than 800 theaters. Through Jan. 4, the awards contender has grossed $30.8 million, well ahead of the $22 million grossed by The Weinstein Co.'s The King's Speech at the same point in that film's run in 2010 (TWC used the same release plan for both). Fox Searchlight's Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, also expanded nationwide over the holidays and is now playing in 1,361 locations, with a gross to date of $25.8 million.

Selma (Dec. 25)
Ava DuVernay's civil rights drama, starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., boasts a pleasing cume to date of $2.1 million from 22 theaters. Selma, from Paramount, currently boasts a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes as sit continues to spark debate over its historical accuracy. It opens nationwide Jan. 9, the week before the MLK holiday. Among other specialty films opening in select theaters over the holidays, Sony Pictures Classics' Mr. Turner has grossed nearly $1 million from 24 theaters since its Dec. 19 release, while J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year, starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, posted an impressive five-day screen average of $75,000 for A24 Films after its Dec. 31 release in four theaters.

Read more History Professor Criticizes 'Selma' for Errors

LOSERS

Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dec. 19)
Director Ridley Scott's big-budget tentpole, starring Christian Bale as Moses, hoped to ride the wave of success enjoyed by other God-centric films in 2014, but it has sorely disappointed. Produced by Chernin Entertainment for Fox, the epic has grossed only $203.7 million globally to date, and it is likely to top out at $250 million (that compares to $362.7 million for Noah), not enough to recoup its $140 million budget and hefty marketing spend.

Top Five (Dec. 12)
Directed by and starring Chris Rock, the dramedy sparked a historic festival bidding war at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. Paramount emerged the victor, thanks in part to a close relationship with producer Scott Rudin (to boot, Paramount CEO-chairman Brad Grey has known Rock for decades). The studio plunked down $12 million for distribution rights, plus a $20 million marketing commitment. Paramount positioned the film to be an awards contender, but Top Five has failed to find much love so far. Nor has it been able to break out at the domestic box office, where its total through Jan. 4 is a disappointing $23.7 million.

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The Interview (Dec. 25)
Sony may have mounted a valiant rescue operation, but the comedy —  starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as two bumbling journalists recruited by the CIA to kill North Korean president Kim Jong Un — is still likely to lose millions for the studio. (And it's unclear if insurance will save the day). After President Barack Obama said the hack-embattled Sony made a mistake in pulling the film, the studio released The Interview in select theaters and on VOD. To date, it's earned $4.8 million at the box office and more than $15 million on VOD. Those might be good numbers for a smaller-budgeted film, but The Interview cost $44 million to make and likely another $40 million to market.

Big Eyes (Dec. 25)
The biopic about artist Margaret Keane, starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, marks one of the worst showings of Tim Burton's career. Since opening nationwide on Christmas Day — albeit it in only 1,307 locations — the quirky drama has earned roughly $10 million for The Weinstein Co.

Inherent Vice (Dec. 12)
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film has lagged since its limited debut, despite a cast led by Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson and Witherspoon. The crime dramedy, from Warner Bros., has earned $1.5 million to date from five theaters, and faces another big test on Jan. 9, when it expands into more than 400 theaters.

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