Box Office: 'Hobbit' Riding High; 'Annie,' 'Night at the Museum' in Close Race

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Still 4 - H 2014
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Still 4 - H 2014

Peter Jackson's final film earned an A- CinemaScore on its way to north of $86 million for its first five days

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is giving the holiday box office a much-needed boost this weekend, adding a stellar $16.5 million Friday on its way to the No. 1 spot for the weekend.

Peter Jackson's film, based on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, should earn north of $86 million after opening Wednesday (about $54 million for the traditional three-day window), far above the original estimates of $75 million to $80 million. The New Line and MGM film will likely continue to do strong business in the coming holidays weeks as families have free time to head to the theaters. It earned an A- CinemaScore.

Box-office comparisons to the previous Hobbit films won't be exactly parallel as the first two came out on Fridays. But the previous film, The Desolation of Smaug, earned $73.6 million in its debut weekend, and hit a final tally of $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.

Read more 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies': Film Review

There's a heated race building for the No. 2 spot this weekend between the other two newcomers: Fox's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Sony's musical Annie.

Fox's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, directed by Shawn Levy, added $5.6 million Friday on its way to about $18 million for the weekend. The film, which garnered a B+ CinemaScore, is facing heavy competition in a crowded holiday box office, with so many films vying for families' attention, and so it won't reach the numbers earned by the previous two films. But December openings often have stronger multiples, so Night at the Museum could continue to see growth in the holiday weeks to come.

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.

In a rare bit of good news for the hack-embattled Sony, the remake Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis, earned a solid $5.3 million Friday and got a favorable A- CinemaScore. The film got a nice boost Friday from school outings to theaters, and if it can bring in family audiences over the weekend, it's looking at an estimated $17 million debut.

Read more 'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb': Film Review

Fox's Exodus: Gods and Kings, now in its second week, will claim the No. 4 spot, with a weekend tally estimated at $8 million. The Christian Bale-starring biblical epic earned $24.1 million last weekend, taking the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office.

Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, now in its fifth weekend, took in an estimated $2.25 million Friday. The YA adaptation starring Jennifer Lawrence should add another $7.9 million to its tally to take the No. 5 spot this weekend.

Reese Witherspoon-starrer Wild, which has expanded into more than 1,000 theaters this weekend, earned $1.2 million Friday, and will likely take in a solid $3.6 million for the weekend.