Weekend Box Office (December 19 - 21, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Thirteen years to the week after the Middle Earth saga began, the lucrative movie franchise comes to a close with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies which concludes the second trilogy. The PG-13 film brings to the screen all the familiar characters from the last Hobbit films - and then some - plus like any good final movie from a book split into pieces, it brings on the action hard and heavy.

The first two Hobbit pics opened to $84.6M and $73.6M with Friday releases. Armies takes a page from the original Lord of the Rings series and bows on a Wednesday, only these days shows begin on the previous evening - 7pm Tuesday here. 3D and IMAX prices will be a factor once again and since Warner Bros. is promoting this picture aggressively as the last time fans can witness this adventure on the big screen, look for many to choose the higher-priced options.

Don't expect newcomers here. Business will come from the loyal fans. The erosion that Smaug suffered indicates some loss of interest in the overall franchise but in the long term, Armies should gross more than the second chapter. In fact in many key overseas markets, Armies has already opened bigger than the first two films. For North America, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies attacks 3,875 locations and could generate about $67M over the weekend period and around $96M including mid-week sales.

Family audiences looking for less decapitations in their weekend fun will get to take a third lap with Ben Stiller and pals in the adventure threequel Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. The PG-rated film reunites the popular cast and adds new faces plus a setting in London. Owen Wilson, Ben Kingsley, Ricky Gervais and the late Robin Williams co-star.

Mid-December is a tough time at the box office due to Christmas shopping and other activities. But Museum does have some heat behind it and well-known brands are the ones that tend to be able to pull in audiences. Others are seen as films that can be enjoyed later during the holiday season. Reviews have been mixed, but good enough for a family sequel. Animated films from November should drop below $5M this weekend so direct competition will not be too tough. Some may have outgrown this franchise, but a new generation of kids has arrived and starpower will help convince parents that this is an all-ages kind of offering. Launching in around 3,700 theaters, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb might open to about $26M this weekend.

Sony is crossing those fingers for its release of the musical remake Annie starring Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rose Byrne, and Cameron Diaz. The PG-rated redo which boasts Will Smith and Jay Z among its producers has been battered by negative reviews and was unfairly leaked online as part of the Sony hack weeks ago. There is no real data on what impact that will have, but surely a portion of the interested audience might find a free way to watch it instead. With no major presence during awards season and no glowing reviews, Annie lacks the must-see buzz needed to post strong numbers. Museum will also pull some families away. Opening in about 3,000 theaters, Annie may take in around $12M this weekend.

Word-of-mouth has been lackluster on Ridley Scott's Egyptian epic Exodus: Gods and Kings. Add in a new VFX-driven tentpole and sales are likely to drop hard for the Fox release in its second weekend. A 45% slide may occur giving Exodus about $13M for the weekend and a new cume of $45M. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 will also be shoved aside by the massive draw of the Middle Earth climax. Lionsgate may see a 45% drop to around $7M for a new total of $288M.

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LAST YEAR Holding number one for a second weekend was The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with $31.5M, down 57%. Paramount's comedy sequel Anchorman 2 debuted in second place with $26.8M and $40M since its mid-week launch on its way to a $127.4M final. Runaway hit Frozen took third with $19.6M followed by a pair of films expanding nationwide. American Hustle collected $19.1M while the Tom Hanks film Saving Mr. Banks took in $9.3M. Final grosses were $150.1M for Sony and $83.3M for Disney.


Last Updated: December 16, 2014 at 9:50PM ET

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