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Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug remained at No. 1 in its second weekend, while holiday comedy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues enjoyed a promising start thanks in large part to younger males.
Desolation of Smaug fell 57 percent to $31.5 million, upping its domestic total to $127.5 million and worldwide cume to a stunning $403.8 million for Warner Bros., New Line and MGM. Overseas, the 3D tentpole also topped the weekend chart with $96 million from 56 territories for a foreign total of $276.3 million. While Smaug continues to pace behind last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey domestically, it is performing on par with that film internationally.
Anchorman 2 grossed $26.8 million for the weekend itself, putting its five-day domestic debut at $40 million (the first Anchorman debuted to $28.4 million in 2004). Overseas, the sequel took in $13.4 million from only five markets — nearly triple the entire lifetime gross of the first film.
Made for $50 million and receiving a B CinemaScore, Anchorman 2 sees the return of Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Christina Applegate while adding newcomers James Marsden, Harrison Ford and Kristen Wiig. It follows the news team as it makes the transition from San Diego to New York. Adam McKay returns to direct from a script he co-wrote with Ferrell, his longtime collaborator.
The Christmas season is a bonanza for moviegoing. Films may not sport huge openings, but can enjoy unusually strong multiples. As in other years, this year brings a potpourri of commercial titles and award contenders (no fewer than 11 films are opening nationwide during the final two weeks of December).
In addition to Anchorman 2, three of those opened this weekend — David O. Russell‘s awards darling American Hustle, Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks and 20th Century Fox’s family film Walking With Dinosaurs.
American Hustle, opening on par with Argo, grossed a stellar $19.1 million to tie with Disney’s Frozen for No. 3 (Disney estimates that Frozen took in $19.2 million, although rival studios have American Hustle ahead of Frozen. The order will be resolved when final numbers are released Monday). American Hustle marks Russell’s best nationwide break, beating Three Kings ($15.8 million) and The Fighter ($12.1 million).
Recounting the Abscam political scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s, American Hustle boasts an ensemble cast led by Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Earlier this month, American Hustle picked up seven Golden Globe nominations, tying with Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years a Slave for the most nods. The film, produced by Megan Ellison, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle and Jonathan Gordon, cost $40 million to make.
Based on their initial performances, Anchorman 2 and American Hustle are both tipped to ultimately earn north of $100 million domestically.
“We are in spectacular shape,” said Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore, adding that he expects Anchorman 2 to begin skewing older as the holiday kicks into high gear. “And overseas, it has already destroyed the previous film’s entire international run. Overall, it’s a testament to how much work Will and Adam have done for this movie.”
Sony president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer expressed similar sentiment. “To start at $19 million the weekend before Christmas is incredible. American Hustle is one of those films where all the stars are aligned beautifully, and will be playing for months to come.”
Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, came in No. 5, earning $9.3 million. The awards contender, with a production budget of $35 million, came in slightly behind expectations, but should benefit going forward from an A CinemaScore (American Hustle only earned a B+).
Both American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks opened last weekend in New York and Los Angeles, and have earned $20.2 million and $9.9 million to date, respectively. Saving Mr. Banks has earned another $15.4 million overseas for an early worldwide total of $25.3 million (it is doing especially well in the U.K., where Travers lived).
In terms of demographics, Anchorman 2 was fueled by males (62 percent), many of them under the age of 35. American Hustle played evenly among females and males. Saving Mr. Banks skewed older, with 35 percent of the audience over the age of 50. Couples turned out in force (74 percent), followed by families (20 percent).
“We’re right where we thought we would be. Our audience is older and they have plenty of holiday distractions at the moment. The ambassador base we have created means our best-grossing days are ahead of us,” said Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis, pointing to the huge multiples that adult titles can enjoy.
Costing a pricey $80 million to make, CGI event pic Walking With Dinosaurs is the first major disappointment of the Christmas season. Coming in No. 8, the family pic debuted to a troubled $7.3 million (Fox had hoped for at least $10 million to $12 million). Instead, families flocked to Frozen, which continues to shine a month into its run.
Nor was the news good overseas, where Walking With Dinosaurs only took in $13.8 million from 40 markets, led by $1.6 million in the U.K.
Fox co-financed Walking With Dinosaurs with Reliance and IM Global, minimizing its financial risk. Walking With Dinosaurs, adapted from the BBC miniseries, has no human cast and tells the story of Patchi, an underdog dinosaur who transforms into a hero (Justin Long and John Leguizamo lead the voice cast).
Box-office observers had assumed that Frozen wouldn’t pose competition for Walking With Dinosaurs at this point, but Frozen has proved a formidable player globally, grossing $191.6 million domestically and $152.6 million internationally for a worldwide cume of $344.2 million through Sunday.
Elsewhere, Dhoom 3 took in a spectacular $3.3 million in North America from 236 locations, heralding the top opening of all time for a Bollywood title in the U.S. and placing No. 9.
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