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Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opened to a massive $90.6 million in North America, while Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Annie both suffered soft starts as the crucial year-end holidays got underway.
Overseas, the final Hobbit entry also dominated, grossing another $105.5 million for a 12-day international total of $265 million and early world haul of $355.6 million.
Five Armies soared in its five-day domestic debut after earning an A- CinemaScore, including a weekend tally of $56.2 million. Box-office comparisons to the previous Hobbit films aren’t exactly parallel as the first two came out on Fridays, but The Desolation of Smaug launched to $73.6 million last year, while An Unexpected Journey opened to $84.6 million in 2012.
From New line and MGM, Five Armies made life difficult for Fox’s Secret of the Tomb and Annie, which is Sony’s lone holiday release now that The Interview has been pulled from its Dec. 25 slot. Jackson’s film did huge business not only with fanboys, but with families as well (40 percent of the audience was under the age of 25, compared to just 19 percent for Smaug).
“Everybody wanted to be a part of the last trip to Middle Earth,” said Warners executive vice president of domestic distribution Jeff Goldstein.
Five Armies prospered on 3D screens, which turned in nearly 50 percent of the overall gross. And Imax theaters whipped up $13.6 million, the best of any Hobbit or The Lord of the Ring title.
Secret of the Tomb, reteaming director Shawn Levy and Ben Stiller, opened to $17.3 million, a franchise low, while Annie came in at $16.3 million. If there’s any solace, it’s that December openings can have stronger multiples because of the year-end holidays. Secret of the Tomb came in No. 2, followed by Annie.
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The hack-embattled Sony needs a win, and says it couldn’t be happier with Annie‘s performance, or the studio’s decision to move up Annie by a week to build word of mouth heading into Christmas. The adaptation of the iconic Broadway musical stars Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx and was produced by Will Smith and Jay-Z. Annie cost $65 million to make, compared to $127 million for Secret of the Tomb.
Annie was among several Sony titles illegally leaked on the Internet over Thanksgiving, but piracy doesn’t appear to have hurt the film to a large degree.
“This is an incredible start for us on a very crowded weekend, and sets us up beautifully for the holidays,” said Josh Greenstein, Sony’s newly installed president of worldwide marketing and distribution. “Annie is a big win for the studio. We stayed focused and rallied around this film to get it out into the world.”
But Annie isn’t the only holiday musical targeting families. On Christmas Day, Disney’s Into the Woods hits theaters.
Annie, earning a favorable A- CinemaScore, did open in line with pre-release tracking. Secret of the Tomb, however, came in well behind expectations.
Fox domestic distribution chief Chris Aronson believes Secret of the Tomb will be fine. “We’re in a play period where family films have tremendous multiples, and Shawn Levy has delivered before,” he said.
Still, some question whether there has been too long of a gap between the threequel and the last installment, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, which debuted to $70 million over the long Memorial Day weekend in 2009. The first Night at the Museum film debuted to $30.4 million when it opened in December 2006.
Secret of the Tomb, also starring the late Robin Williams, received a B+ CinemaScore, the same as Battle of the Smithsonian. Overseas, the movie rolled out in its first 28 markets — many are smaller territories — earning $10.8 million.
Elsewhere, Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s Exodus: Gods and Kings tumbled a steep 67 percent in its second weekend to $8.1 million for a tepid domestic total of $38.9 million. Ridley Scott directed the biblical epic, starring Christian Bale as Moses. Internationally, Exodus has now grossed $61.9 million for a world total of $100.8 million (it is holding back in many markets because of Hobbit).
Exodus placed No. 4 in North America, followed by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 with $7.8 million for a domestic cume of $289.2 million and worldwide cume of $639.7 million.
Reese Witherspoon-starrer Wild, which expanded nationwide over the weekend, climbed up the chart to No. 6, earning a pleasing $4.2 million for an early domestic total of $7.2 million for Fox Searchlight.
Here are the estimated top 10 films for the weekend of Dec. 19-21 at the domestic box office:
Title, Weeks in Release/Theater Count, Studio, Weekend Total, Percentage Change, Cume
1. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, 1/3,875, WB/New Line $56.2 million, $90.6 million
2. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, 1/3,785, Fox, $17.3 million
3. Annie, 1/3,116, Sony, $16.3 million
4. Exodus: Gods and Kings, 2/3,503, Fox, $8.1 million, -67%, $38.9 million
5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, 5/3,174, Lionsgate, $7.8 million, -39%, $289.2 million
6. Wild, 3/1,061, Fox Searchlight, $4.2 million, +171%, $7.2 million
7. Top Five, 2/1,307, Paramount, $3.57 million, -48%, $12.5 million
8. Big Hero 6, 7/2,407, Disney, $3.56 million, -41%, $190.4 million
9. Penguins of Madagascar, 4/2,712, Fox/DWA, $3.5 million, -51%, $64.2 million
10. P.K., 1/272, UTV, $3.46 million
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