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Weekend Box-Office: ‘The Hobbit’ Is #1, ‘American Sniper’ Scores The 2nd Highest Limited Opening Of 2014

Weekend Box-Office: ‘The Hobbit’ Is #1, 'American Sniper' Scores The 2nd Highest Limited Opening Of 2014

Well, 2014 ended on a very strong box-office note with weekend profits up 8% from last year and 17% from 2012. Holding the line at #1 this weekend was Warner Bros.’ “The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies” which only fell 24.3% from last weekend, exhibiting a terrific hold. The movie has grossed a spectacular $405 million internationally. That means after three weeks of release (only two domestically), the final ‘Hobbit’ film stands at $573 worldwide. Hitting the billion mark (‘An Unexpected Journey’ got there, ‘Smaug’ fell short by about $50 million) seems extremely doable at this point (‘Five Armies’ could also become the highest grossing film of 2014 worldwide if it can best the $1.087 billion that ‘Transformers 4’ reached earlier this year). Critics may be a little tired of the film (and our review was way generous in my opinion), but audiences, especially those abroad, are definitely on board (though don’t tell Peter Jackson this, cause he may renege on his plans to make a smaller scale film).

The box-office was healthy across the board. There were four new wide releases in theaters, and at least three of them did superb numbers. Landing at the second slot was Universal’s Oscar hope, “Unbroken” from director Angelina Jolie. It’s off to a fine start with a $31.7 million opening weekend. Not trailing far behind in the third slot was Disney’s “Into The Woods” with $31.02 million. Both films have been in theaters since Thursday and have grossed over $45 million domestically.

As we predicted last weekend, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” isn’t down for the count despite very soft opening weekend numbers and easily the lowest of the trilogy so far. The movie actually earned more in week two than it did it its debut, jumping +20.5% and scoring $20 million. This is very good news for Fox and shows that while the drive to see a movie like this opening weekend may not be as high as it would be for other films, it’s four-quadrant friendly and should play in theaters for weeks as families get to the movie at their own leisure. Sony’s “Annie” also stayed strong, jumping 4% in week two and earning itself another $16 million. Having grossed almost $50 million in two weeks, one presumes that, like ‘Museum,’ families will keep this one in theaters for several weeks and it could rise up to hit the $100 million mark if this pace continues.

Lionsgate‘s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is now the second film of 2014 to cross the $300 million mark domestically. The film has grossed $306 million at home and now stands as the second highest grossing film of 2014 for North America. Internationally it’s doing well too, but the pace seems to be tapering off as the domestic totals are beginning to grow on par with the overseas ones. The movie is now at $669 million worldwide, but considering the domestic/international margins of the last picture, it’s a bit of a surprise that in week six of release the movie has not crossed $400 million abroad. Paramount’s “Interstellar,” as a point of comparison, is closing in on $500 million overseas eight weeks in.

Paramount’s “The Gambler” scored a so-so $9.3 million from 2,478 screens, which was comparatively low to the rest of the week’s new and wide releases. But it has made almost $16 million since Thursday, and as a darker adult drama, with reviews that are not as strong as “Unbroken” or “Into The Woods” (despite it being better than both), its box office growth is bound to be significantly slower. Number sixteen in theaters last week and now number eight, The Weinstein Company’s “The Imitation Game” had perhaps the biggest limited to wide expansion of the year, jumping +823.6% from last weekend. Still only on less than 1,000 screens (747 total right now), the movie grossed $7.9 million in its fifth week of limited release. The movie has grossed almost $15 million so far and clearly the movie will continue to excel as it slowly moves into a wide release. Weinstein Co. have also shown they’ve outclassed in 2014 platform releases (see the success of “St. Vincent” too). 20th Century Fox’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” is on its way out of the box-office top ten, though the movie only had a small 16.7% drop, illustrating just how much of a healthy box-office weekend it was. At a public cost of $140 million (which means it may be higher), the Ridley Scott picture has only grossed $52 million in three weeks of release at home. Reportedly banned in places like Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, the movie isn’t really faring much better overseas, and the picture has only grossed $148 million worldwide so far. Based on the grosses, the picture will probably land somewhere near $200 million worldwide (but not necessarily hitting that mark) and will be chalked up as a loss. Studios that are planning their own biblical films should probably take note at the whitewashing backlash and course correct if they can. Adding another 224 theaters for 1,285 total, Fox Searchlight‘s “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon also held strong, rising 31.6% in its fourth week of platforming release.

Unless Sony release VOD numbers, it’s nearly impossible to tell how well “The Interview” did this weekend and through Christmas Day considering the film was available on YouTube, Xbox and GooglePlay, but theatrically, on 331 screens the comedy debuted with $1.8 million for a good $5,417 per screen average. Considering the amount of press it received — though if you honestly think the Sony hack was a publicity stunt, you should probably go to the doctor and check for permanent and unremitting brain damage — “The Interview” could have made millions on video on demand, figures that could far surpass theatrical because the distribution splits on VOD are much greater in the studio’s favor. One would assume, much like the success of “Snowpiercer” on VOD this summer, that Sony will release some kind of numbers, but tensions are already high between the studio and angry studio exhibitors (who refused to play the movie, mind you), so it’s possible they may postpone disclosing full numbers for the immediate future. Update: This afternoon, Sony said it made $15 million in downloads so far. That would make it number five on this week’s box-office chart if the figure was included.

Compare “The Interview” numbers to The Weinstein Company’sBig Eyes” by director Tim Burton, another new wide-ish release this weekend. “The Interview” scored $1.8 million from 331 screens and “Big Eyes” could only gross $2.9 million despite being on almost four times as many screens (1,307 to be exact, and nabbing the 15th box office slot). The “Big Eyes” release is also the lowest wide release opening of Burton’s career. In limited release, Warner Bros.’ “American Sniper” had a gangbusters weekend. The Clint Eastwood-directed film starring Bradley Cooper grossed $610,000 from four screens for a spectacular $152,500 per screen average. That’s now the second highest limited release opening of 2014 and of all time behind “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This opening also bests the former runner-up limited release champion “The Master” which scored a $147,262 PSA in 2012. Paramount’s “Selma” also had a very strong limited release opening weekend: $590,000 from nineteen screens for a $31,053 per screen average.

Strangely enough, pictures like “The Theory Of Everything” and “Birdman,” which were doing fantastic limited release numbers in their first few weekends, seem to have peaked. They’ve had good runs, mind you, and have both grossed over $20 million each, but their time within the box-office top 10 seems to be over — at least for now. Focus and Fox Searchlight may be lowering their theater counts anticipating the surge they’ll receive from their presumably numerous Oscar nominations. Other curious limited release figures: Sony Pictures Classics’Foxcatcher” never really seemed to take off outside of its terrific opening limited debut, and the same seems to be true for “Inherent Vice” (though it is up 31% from last weekend). But the former may see a major spike from Oscar nominations and the latter goes wide on January 9, so that’s perhaps its shot. SPC’s “Whiplash” never really took off like its limited release peers, but Oscar nominations could change that too (and for some counterbalance, it’s the highest grossing 2014 Sundance acquisition title). Further down in limited release, “Two Days, One Night” and “Leviathan” had decent opening weekends as well for their smaller scale releases: $30,600 from two screens for the former ($15.3 PSA) and $15,200 from two screens for the latter ($7.6 PSA)

1. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — $41,420,000 ($168,522,000)
2. Unbroken — $31,748,000 ($47,341,000)
3. Into the Woods — $31,021,000 ($46,105,000)
4. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb — $20,600,000 ($55,307,000)
5. Annie — $16,600,000 ($45,835,000)
6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 — $10,000,000 ($306,656,000)
7. The Gambler — $9,300,000 ($14,300,000)
8. The Imitation Game — $7,930,000 ($14,631,000)
9. Exodus: Gods and Kings — $6,750,000 ($52,517,000)
10. Wild —$5,415,000 ($16,364,000)

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