Box Office Preview: Final 'Hobbit' to Ring in $70 Million-Plus Debut

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Sony's "Annie" and Fox's third "Night at the Museum" will open on Friday

After a strong performance in foreign markets this past weekend, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will open in the U.S. beginning on Wednesday.

The final installment in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy should earn between $70 million and $75 million for the five days, according to estimates, to top the U.S. box office.

Beginning its rollout at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, The Battle of the Five Armies, rated PG-13, will hit more than 3,850 theaters this weekend around the U.S. It's already taken in a stellar $125 million in foreign markets through Tuesday.

A debut around $70 million (some insiders believe it could hit as high as $80 million) would put Battle of the Five Armies behind the pace of the first and second installments, which both opened on Fridays. The second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, opened one week earlier last year, earning $73.6 million in its debut. It went on to earn $958.4 million worldwide. The first installment, An Unexpected Journey, opened in December 2012 to $84.6 million on its way to a grand total of $1 billion.

There is still the possibility that Battle of the Five Armies will earn higher than the expected range as fans could turn out in droves to say goodbye to the Tolkien franchise. But the New Line and MGM film faces tougher competition than its predecessors during a crowded holiday season, which includes Sony's family film Annie and Fox's Night at the Museum sequel, both opening this weekend, and musical Into the Woods, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Paramount’s The Gambler and The Interview (the film at the center of the Sony hack attack) next weekend.

Another third film in a trilogy, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, is also hitting theaters this weekend. Directed by Shawn Levy, the PG film starring Ben Stiller should earn around $35 million-plus in its debut.

Secret of the Tomb marks one of the final film appearances for both Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney, who died in 2014. Owen Wilson, Dan Stevens and Ben Kingsley also star.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian opened in May 2009 to a four-day debut of $70 million over Memorial Day weekend (It earned $54.2 million in the traditional three day window). It went on to earn $413.1 million worldwide. The first Night at the Museum film debuted to $30.4 million when it opened in December 2006 on its way to a worldwide tally of $574.8 million.

Sony's remake Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis, is opening on Friday and should earn $15 million or slightly more in its debut. The musical hits theaters as Sony deals with escalating threats from a hacker group over their upcoming Christmas Day release, The Interview.

Also starring Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, Annie is a contemporary adaptation of the musical of the same name, based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. The $60 million-plus movie was one of several Sony films that was leaked onto the Internet during Thanksgiving weekend, but piracy doesn't often hurt a film's box office results. Rivals, though, say interest in Annie, produced by Will Smith and Jay Z, is relatively soft, but as with most films that open in December, it could have longer legs as the holidays arrive and families head to theaters.

Holdover Exodus: Gods and Kings, which topped last weekend, and Lionsgate’s  big YA film The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, now in its fifth week, should continue to do steady business this weekend as the holiday season kicks into gear.

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