Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Hobbits save Christmas at cinemas

Published:Monday | December 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Contributed Martin Freeman (left) in a scene from the film The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Ben Stiller in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.
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NEW YORK (AP):

While Hollywood continued to wrestle with the fallout of the Sony hacking scandal, the weekend box office offered the solace of a movie-going truism.

Hobbits sell.

Peter Jackson's final instalment of his six J.R.R. Tolkien adventures, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, debuted with US$56.2 million over the weekend, and US$90.6 million since opening last Wednesday, according to studio estimates yesterday. For an industry reeling from the cancellation of The Interview and terrorist threats against moviegoers, Middle Earth provided reliable refuge.

Aided by popularity on Imax screens, The Battle of the Five Armies dominated the pre-Christmas frame with a five-day haul similar to the franchise's previous entry, The Desolation of Smaug, even if its actual debut weekend was notably less than both prior Hobbit movies. In its second week of release overseas, Warner Bros' Five Armies added US$105.5 million to bring its two-week global total past US$350 million.

A WELCOME RESPITE

Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros, said the healthy weekend of movie going was a welcome respite after an "upsetting and so disturbing" week.

"Not only did we do business in places that I would expect, like the West Coast, we did business everywhere in the country," Goldstein said. "We didn't see that on the prior two Hobbits."

Another final instalment in a trilogy, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, opened in a distant second place. The Fox comedy, which features Robin Williams' final performance, took in US$17.3 million, well off the pace of previous franchise entries. The franchise's previous debut was US$54.2 million for 2009's Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Sony Pictures, which on Wednesday shelved the December 25 release of the North Korea satire The Interview following hacker threats of violence against cinemas showing the film, unveiled its other holiday option. The studio's Annie remake, starring Quvenzhane Wallis as the orphan after whom the movie is named, opened with US$16.3 million.

"It was a nice shot in the arm," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony, who declined to discuss issues related to The Interview. "We're focused on Annie," he said.

Last week's top film, Ridley Scott's Moses epic Exodus: Gods and Kings tumbled to fourth place with US$8.1 million in its second week. The Fox release slid a dramatic 67 per cent.

TOP COMEDY PULLED

Heading into one of Hollywood's most lucrative weekends of the year, the Christmas box office will be without its top comedy option in The Interview, directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The film had been expected to take in about US$25-$30 million.

With one major release now out of the mix, that will leave more room for the Disney musical Into the Woods, Angelina Jolie's World War II tale Unbroken and The Hobbit.

"There's a huge opportunity there," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office tracker Rentrak.

"There's enough product out there to give it a very satisfying Christmas holiday leading into the new year. Yeah, we are down one film, but it's a nice mix of films out there."

On Sunday, David Boies, a lawyer for Sony, said on NBC's 'Meet the Press' that The Interview "will be released". The studio has been criticised by many, including President Barack Obama, for dropping the film following data leaks and intimidation from hackers the FBI has said came from North Korea.

"How it's going to be distributed, I don't think anybody knows quite yet," Boies said.

Following are estimated ticket sales for last Friday through yesterday at US and Canadian cinemas, according to Rentrak.

1. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (US$56.2 million - North America; US$105.5 million - international)

2. Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (US$17.3 million - North America; US$10.8 million - international)

3. Annie (US$16.3 million - - North America; US$1 million international)

4. Exodus: Gods and Kings (US$8.1 million - North America; US$7.6 million - international)

5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (US$7.8 million - North America; US$9.3 million - international)

6. Wild (US$4.2 million)

7. Top Five (US$3.6 million)

8. Big Hero 6 (US$3.6 million - North America; US$11.5 million - international)

9. Penguins of Madagascar (US$3.5 million - North America; US$16.5 million - international)

10. P.K. (US$3.5 million - North America; US$22.1 million - international)