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Friday Box Office: ‘Hobbit’ Reigns Again, ‘American Sniper’ Rises

Friday Box Office: 'Hobbit' Reigns Again, 'American Sniper' Rises

With a Friday gross of $8.4 million, “The Hobbit” leads a Top Ten roster that totaled $52 million, about 20% higher than the post-New Year’s weekend last year. It joins the first two Middle Earth films in getting a three-peat, but because of its later opening date, the period covered includes both weekends after Christmas, making it the first holiday release to do so since “Avatar.” “American Sniper,” “Selma” and the newly-opened “A Most Violent Year” showed strength among limited releases, with “Sniper” actually above its record-setting number last Friday.

In second place for the day is “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” (Relativity) with $7.8 million. This weekend has been a go-to slot for horror openings in recent years. This gross, likely the high-water mark for the sequel (unlike the first film, not starring Daniel Radcliffe), is below those for “The Devil Inside,” “Texas Chainsaw 3D” or “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” over the last three years, and also, despite elevated holiday playtime, about $500,000 less than the early February initial Friday in 2012.

Second and third for the full weekend might not be determined until Monday. Both “Into the Woods” (Buena Vista” and “Unbroken” (Universal) did between $7.4-7.5 million yesterday (“Woods” apparently slightly ahead). Similar to “The Hobbit,” both are down between 40-50% from last Friday (the always strong grossing day after Christmas).

Two family oriented films, “Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb” (20th Century Fox) with $5.9 million and “Annie” (Sony) with a little under $4.6 took fifth and sixth. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” placed seventh with $3 million, more than $500,000 better than “Catching Fire” last year (ranking ninth). This now looks certain to outgross “Guardians of the Galaxy” and become the top 2014 release domestically.

Perhaps the most impressive number in the Top Ten is that of “The Imitation Game” (Weinstein), at a little under $3 million. Adding only seven theaters, the gross actually increased from last Friday. At $25.6 million, this now has surpassed Fox Searchlight’s “Wild” (still grossing well – $1.7 million yesterday) as the top grosser) and “Birdman” as the top performer among late year specialized releases. More impressively, it has played at far fewer theaters so far.

“The Gambler” (Paramount) took ninth (down from seventh last week, though surprisingly its about a 25% drop was less than either fellow Christmas Day openers “Into the Woods” or “Unbroken.” “Big Hero 6″ (Buena Vista) easily won the battle of the holdover animated releases, in tenth place with $1.9 million.

Clint Eastwood’s phenomenal “American Sniper” (Warner Bros.), aided by getting additional seating at its four locations, actually climbed 17% over last Friday, taking in $234,000. “Selma” (Paramount) added three theaters (up to 22) and grossed $227,000, with a per screen average of $10,318 just a little below last Friday.

J.C. Chandor’s “A Most Violent Year” (A24) opened on the last possible day for awards’ consideration, and the initial four theater New York-Los Angeles results is strong (though not remotely approaching “Sniper”‘s take). Yesterday took in $60,469 on top of an initial two-day total of $110,263.

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