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Holiday Box Office Surge Looks Real, ‘Hobbit’ Returns to Top Spot

Holiday Box Office Surge Looks Real, 'Hobbit' Returns to Top Spot

Aided by the post-Christmas date falling on a weekend, the total Top Ten box office yesterday came to about $67 million. That number is 15% better than the same Friday last year, down only 5% from two days ago (above average) and also better than December 26 (a Thursday) last year. It’s a strong showing that has to thrill the industry across the board after the near-panic two weeks ago.

That’s the big (and important) picture. The make-up of the individual films reflects typical post-Christmas Day performance — the previous day’s openers fell, general audience/family films climbed, the order of the Top Ten shifted. The resurgent The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies(Warner Bros.) returned to the top spot after dropping to third on Wednesday with $15,650,000. Its later opening this year contributes to this being about a third better than the second entry last year, but also looks to be a result of better audience reaction for this one. The total to date is just shy of $143 million, compared to $170 million last year through the same calendar date.

Although the Friday factor should have helped to stabilize them, the two strong Thursday openers took their anticipated second day drop, but within normal range: Unbroken(Universal) grossed $12.3 million (down 21%) and Into the Woods(Buena Vista) $12.2 million (down 19%) to place second and third. Both continue to perform far ahead of expectations.

The family audience surge benefited both “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” (20th Century Fox) and “Annie” (Sony). Taking fourth and fifth respectively, “Museum” grossed $7.4 million (+2%) and “Annie” about $6.1 million (a very strong 35% jump, rare good news at the moment for Sony). “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” (Lionsgate) placed a surprising sixth with $3,550,000, crossing $300 million yesterday. Last year, “Catching Fire” was ninth for the day with $3 million, but had already amassed $380 million.

“The Gambler” (Paramount), the third wide Christmas opener, grossed $3.4 million, a 31% drop and also down two places to take seventh. The Imitation Game (Weinstein), which added most of its dates on Thursday (making it effectively a new release) took in just under $2.9 million, down only 6% and holding the better than the opening films. This is in only 747 theaters, making its performance particularly impressive. Struggling at ninth place, Exodus: Gods and Kings(20th Century Fox) got only a small holiday boost with $2.4 million. In tenth, “Wild” (Fox Searchlight) grossed $1.9 million in only 1,285 theaters.

Weinstein’s Big Eyesmanaged only $1.04 million in 1,307 theaters, down an unpromising 26% from its first day gross. But two other Christmas Day openers, both limited, continued to show strength. Clint Eastwood’s very strong American Sniper(Warner Bros.) took in $199,000 in only four theaters, a per-screen-average of almost $50,000, and looks to be the second best opening weekend platform opener of the year (behind only “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which premiered in a much less competitive period and had all the seating it needed, compared to the more restricted conditions all films face this time of year in prime theaters). This was a 17% drop from the initial figure, but that included previous night sell-out previews inflating the total. Selma(Paramount) didn’t hold up as well, with its $211,000 total representing a 34% drop in 19 theater, but remains a solid initial number.

Oh, and “The Interview”? Sony hasn’t reported numbers yet, but sources indicate it dropped about 30% with a gross of around $700,000 in its melange of 331 scrappy independent theaters, competing with home viewing for eyeballs.

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