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New in Theaters December 17: Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, Annie, Secret of the Tomb

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By Chris Kavan - 12/18/14 at 06:43 AM CT

One movie has already hit theaters early - two other family-friendly titles will vie for the top spot, but I don't see it being much of a contest this weekend. Things have been in kind of slump since Thanksgiving, but this weekend should finally turn things around for Hollywood. Granted, it's a little to turn around the sting of the less-than-fruitful summer, but at least the year can end on a bit of a high note. We'll see just how good things turn out - but from early indications, things are looking up.

THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES While Peter Jackson's Hobbit Trilogy hasn't been quite as exciting or well-received as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy that preceded it, the fantasy epic has still managed to capture a bit of magic. Battle of Five Armies got a jump by opening Tuesday late and can already claim an $11.2 million opening. That falls right in between the other two Hobbit films - Unexpected Journey opened early to $13 million, while Desolation of Smaug could only conjure up $8.8 million. Given the performances of the last two films as well, Battle of Five Armies is looking at at least a $75 million opening. Battle of Five Armies also looks to be the most action-packed out of the Hobbit films - all the previews have shown two battles - the Dwarves want to hold their newly-gained fortress against man and elf - not to mention one seriously pissed-off dragon. Meanwhile, the rising power of Sauron has awakened a different evil - one which will require a deadly battle all its own. I don't know how we're going to get much character development with what is sure to be many arrows loosed, axes swung and fire galore - but that's never really been these films' strong suits anyway. I'm excited to see what's in store, but tempered by the fact the first two films (while good) weren't anything outstanding. We'll see if Jackson can end things on a high note. One thing is for certain - it's easily going to be the top movie of the weekend.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB The first two Night at the Museum movies were a fun bit of fluff. Ben Stiller always looks like he's having a good time as the put-upon museum security guard who has to deal with an ancient curse that brings the exhibits to life when the sun goes down. The movie has taken us from Chicago to Washington D.C. and now we get to skip across the pond to London where Larry has to deal with saving the living exhibits as the magic keeping them "alive" is fading away. This is one of the final films of comedic legend Robin Williams - and easily the most accessible one for general audiences. While it may not be the most memorable film in his career, the fact the first two were a hit with families should mean this third entry will be just as well-received. Rebel Wilson and Dan Stevens join the party with a host of returning faces: Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Steve Coogan, Mizuo Peck, Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke amongst others. The first movie made over $250 million, the second over $177 million - the law of diminishing returns says this will break $100 million too - we'll see how high it can climb.

ANNIE Annie is one of the handful of films that were leaked in the midst of the Sony hacking scandal. Taking things with a grain of salt - early indications are that this Annie is a bit of a letdown. The cast does look great, Beasts of the Southern Wild breakout star Quvenzhané Wallis plays the titular character, with Jamie Foxx taking on the role of Will Stacks (this version's Daddy Warbucks), Cameron Diaz is the cranky orphan keeper with Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje rounding out the cast. Most of the ire has been directed at questionable attempt to "update" the music and setting to a more modern age. It looses some of that overall cuteness and appeal in the process. I'm not going to get in to the whole racial aspect - people upset about that need to get over it. This is going to compete directly with Night at the Museum for families - and it remains to be seen who is going to win this battle, but it will probably be a close one.

This should be the most exciting weekend since November, and Hollywood certainly needs it. Between this weekend and a very packed Christmas release schedule, we should finally have some fireworks at the box office. See you on Sunday with the final results,


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