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'The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug' Tops Box Office With $73.7 Million


Even though "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" finished below the opening of last year's franchise entry, it's still off to a great start for distributor Warner Brothers, putting it in position to make another run at $1 billion worldwide. Also opening this weekend was "A Madea Christmas," though the latest from Tyler Perry struggled to find its usual audience and posted a disappointing $16 million in opening revenue. Meanwhile, Disney's "Frozen" had another very strong weekend, dropping just 30% from last week and earning another $22 million in its third weekend in wide release.

With a per venue average of nearly $19,000, "The Desolation of Smaug" clearly looks like it once again has some significant appeal with its target audience. Though its $73.7 million domestic opening is well below the $84.6 million that the first "Hobbit" earned last year, there's also so much worldwide appeal that it's still shaping up to be another monstrous hit for Warner Brothers. Thanks to $131 million in foreign revenue, "Smaug" has already cruised past $200 million worldwide and is on pace to finish as one of the biggest earners of the year if it can deliver outside of the U.S.

Much like the first "Hobbit," "Smaug" also has the advantage of very good release timing, as it should be able to hold on to a large portion of its target audience thanks to the very lucrative holiday movie season. Last year, "The Hobbit" did well throughout the holidays after opening around the same time, pushing it to more than $300 million in the U.S. and $1 billion around the globe. Though it's likely that "Smaug" will finish below $300 million domestically, good foreign numbers should still boost its worldwide outlook to the neighborhood of $1 billion.

Not doing as well with its target audience over the weekend was Tyler Perry's "A Madea Christmas." While Perry's "Madea" releases have routinely come in at $25 million or higher over opening weekend, "A Madea Christmas" managed just $16 million on a per venue average of $7,293. "A Madea Christmas" ended up as the worst performing release in the entire "Madea" series over its opening weekend, suggesting that the long-running series is starting to slow down.

But even though numbers were lower than anticipated, it still looks like another moderate success for Lionsgate. With a reported production budget of only $25 million and a release of 2,194 theaters, a $16 million opening is a very solid overall total. Unlike past "Madea" releases, "A Madea Christmas" also has advantageous release timing and should be able to post some solid numbers thanks to the holiday theme over the next few weeks. Instead of dropping off the table after opening weekend like most Perry releases, "A Madea Christmas" should end up with a nice little box office run through the rest of the year.

While "Madea" struggled to meet expectations, the other big winner of the weekend was "Frozen," which hauled in $22 million to push its domestic total to $164 million. The $150 million production is already up to $265 million worldwide and looks like it will remain a major box office earner throughout the holiday season, though animated release "Walking with Dinosaurs" will command a portion of family audiences once it opens this weekend.

The weekend was also an early test for a couple of awards season favorites that received limited releases over the weekend. David O. Russell's latest critically acclaimed film, "American Hustle," posted a very strong $115,000 per venue at six sites around the country, setting it up to do well with audiences as it expands in the coming weeks. Also getting a little more exposure after a very limited release was "Inside Llewyn Davis," the latest film from Academy Award winners the Coen Brothers. But unlike popular Coen Brothers films like "True Grit" or "Burn After Reading," "Inside Llewyn Davis" looks like it has limited commercial potential, with a mediocre $22,933 per site at 15 theaters across the country. We'll get a better feel for the box office outlook next week as "Inside Llewyn Davis" gets a nationwide expansion, but early indications are that it will have minimal appeal outside of art house crowds.

This week, "Anchorman: The Legend Continues" will lead the way as it hits theaters on Wednesday, bringing enormous expectations thanks to the cult following of the original. Also getting launched will be animated family film "Walking with Dinosaurs," while "American Hustle," "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Saving Mr. Banks" get significant nationwide expansions.

Early Studio Box Office Estimates for 12/13/13 - 12/15/13 (in millions), [RTT Prediction]:

1) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner Bros.): $73.68 [$79]

2) Frozen (Disney): $22.18 [$17]

3) Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas (Lionsgate): $16 [$30]

4) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate): $13.15 [$14]

5) Thor: The Dark World (Disney): $2.70 [$2.5]

6) Out of the Furnace (Relativity): $2.32 [$2.8]

7) Delivery Man (Disney): $1.87 [$1.8]

8) Philomena (Weinstein): $1.76 [N/A]

9) The Book Thief (Fox): $1.68 [$1.6]

10) Homefront (Open Road Films): $1.64 [$1.7]

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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