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Weekend Box Office: Smaug Sets Box Office on Fire

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By Chris Kavan - 12/16/13 at 12:17 AM CT

There wasn't any doubt as to what movie was going to take the box office crown - the only question was how good it was going to open. The answer is one of the best December openings on record but not as good as the record-setting original Hobbit. Even if it fell short of its predecessor, Peter Jackson doesn't have much to be worried about as The Desolation of Smaug is easily going to be one of the top ten films of the year and could even break into the top five before it is done.


Although critics were divided, almost everyone agreed that Smaug was an improvement over An Unexpected Journey. Even so, audiences who turned out for Smaug were a bit down compared to Jackson's first Hobbit film. At $73.7 million, the film ranks fourth all time for a December opening - but couldn't match the $84.6 million the original film brought in. The original film also had an "A" cinemeascore whereas Smaug had to settle for an "A-". Though I found it to have better pacing than the original film, I still wasn't blown away by what I saw on screen. It still lacks the spark the original LOTR films brought out - the movie isn't bad, it just isn't that great, either. The films 49% 3D showing was the exact same as An Unexpected Journey and it had a 12% IMAX showing as well. If Smaug follows in the footsteps of the original film, it should wind up with about a $260 million total.


After beating out Catching Fire last weekend, Frozen continued to show an impressive hold. Dropping 30%, the animated feature brought in $22.2 million, raising its total to $164.38 million. With a firm lock on the family audience, Frozen is still on pace to finish right around the $250 million mark. It will join Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 as one of the top 10 films of 2013.


Although Tyler Perry has a loyal following, A Madea Christmas delivered a lump of coal for the director. At just $16 million, it marks the third-lowest opening for Perry - and the lowest opening for a film with Madea in the title. Madea's Witness Protection opened with $25.4 million in June for comparison. The movie had a mostly female (67%) and older (63% over 25) audience, and they awarded it an A- Cinemascore (typical for a Perry film). If the movie can manage a decent hold through December, it should be able to top the $50 million mark before it ends its run.


With Smaug targeting much the same audience, Catching Fire dipped 50% in its fourth weekend out. The film brought in $13.2 million, raising its total to just about $357 million. Although the competition is ramping up, the film should still be able to make it to the $400 million mark before it is through.


Marvel's Asgardian hero moved ever closer to the $200 million mark. Down 44%, Thor took in $2.7 million and upped its total to $198.1 million. It should be able to cross the milestone mark by this time next week - even though it will drop out of the top five by then.

Outside the top 10: Coming off the heels of many award nominations (and wins) David O. Russell's American Hustle (starring the likes of Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper) can add "best limited release opening of 2013" its list of accomplishments. At $690,000 from just six theaters, the film had a scorching-hot $115,000-per theater average - the 15th best ever (and fifth best for a live-action film). It bodes well when the film opens in wide release on the 20th.

Next week Anchorman 2 gets a jump on the competition by opening early on the 18th - and if the success of Ron Burgundy's ad campaign is any indication, this should be one of the highest-grossing comedies of 2013. You also have the true story behind getting the P.L. Travers series of Mary Poppins stories on the big screen with Saving Mr. Banks and, for the kids, Walking with Dinosaurs (which I doubt will pose much of a threat to current family favorite Frozen).


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