Warner's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug debuted in first place this weekend with an estimated $73.68 million. While that was a solid start, it was softer than widely expected and represented a significant 13 percent decline from the $84.62 million debut of last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It should also be noted that The Desolation of Smaug (and the marketplace in general) looks to have taken a bit of a hit on Saturday from Winter Storm Electra. Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, The Desolation of Smaug still delivered the fourth largest opening weekend ever in the month of December (behind only An Unexpected Journey, I Am Legend and Avatar).
The Desolation of Smaug opened with $31.24 million on Friday (which included an estimated $8.8 million from midnight shows). The film fell 21.5 percent on Saturday to gross $24.52 million and is estimated to fall 27 percent on Sunday to take in $17.93 million. That gives The Desolation of Smaug an estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.36 to 1, which was slightly above the 2.28 to 1 ratio of An Unexpected Journey. With this weekend's debut likely being deflated a bit by the weather, a solid A- CinemaScore rating and the holiday season ahead of it, The Desolation of Smaug will hope to hold up at least as well as An Unexpected Journey did. However, The Desolation of Smaug will also have to compete with a larger number of holiday wide releases than An Unexpected Journey did (there are nine films opening in wide release between now and Christmas this year, as opposed to seven wide releases during the same period last year).
The audience breakdown for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug skewed towards male moviegoers (60 percent) and moviegoers over 25 years old (64 percent). Desolation of Smaug skewed a bit more towards male and older moviegoers than An Unexpected Journey did. The film grossed $9.18 million from IMAX locations this weekend, which represented 12.5 percent of this weekend's overall gross. 3D grosses were responsible for 49 percent of this weekend's gross (which represented the same opening weekend 3D percentage as An Unexpected Journey).
Disney's Frozen held up quite nicely this weekend with an estimated second place take of $22.18 million. The blockbuster 3D computer animated film from Walt Disney Animation fell just 30 percent from last weekend. Frozen has grossed a very impressive $164.39 million after 19 days of wide release. That places the film 42.5 percent ahead of the $115.396 million 19-day take of 2010's Tangled (which fell 34 percent in its third weekend to gross $14.33 million). With a limited amount of family options entering the marketplace over the rest of the holiday season, Frozen should continue to hold up very well going forward.
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas was off to a sluggish start this weekend with an estimated third place debut of $16.0 million. The latest Madea film from Lionsgate debuted well below pre-release expectations and easily delivered the softest debut ever for the Madea franchise (the previous low for a film starring Madea having been the $21.91 million debut of 2005's Diary of a Mad Black Woman). Making this weekend's debut even more surprising was the fact that A Madea Christmas had clearly been generating the highest level of online buzz ever for a Madea film. A Madea Christmas debuted 37 percent softer than the $25.39 million debut of last year's Madea's Witness Protection. The Madea franchise (and Perry's films in general) has historically been very front-loaded towards opening weekend. A Madea Christmas will hope to buck that trend with the aid of the holiday season, but whether it actually can remains to be seen.
A Madea Christmas grossed $5.74 million on Friday, increased 10 percent on Saturday to take in $6.33 million and is estimated to fall 38 percent on Sunday to gross $3.93 million. That places the film's estimated opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.79 to 1. Like The Desolation of Smaug, A Madea Christmas received an A- rating on CinemaScore. The audience breakdown for A Madea Christmas skewed towards female moviegoers (67 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 years and older (63 percent).
Fellow Lionsgate release The Hunger Games: Catching Fire placed in fourth with an estimated $13.15 million. The blockbuster sequel starring Jennifer Lawrence fell 50 percent from last weekend. The film took a noticeable hit from the arrival of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (and from losing IMAX screens), but didn't fall off the box office map either this weekend. Catching Fire has grossed a massive $356.98 million through 24 days of release. That places the film 6 percent ahead of the $336.67 million 24-day take of last year's The Hunger Games (which fell 36 percent in its fourth weekend to gross $21.10 million).
On the platform front, Sony's American Hustle was off to a terrific start this weekend with an estimated $690,000 from just six locations. That gave the David O. Russell directed awards season hopeful a per-location average of $115,000 for the frame. The platform launch of American Hustle was significantly stronger than the $300,010 four-location launch of The Fighter back in December of 2010. American Hustle is scheduled to be released in an estimated 2,500 locations next weekend.
In other platform news, Disney's Saving Mr. Banks debuted with $421,000 from 15 locations, while CBS Films' Inside Llewyn Davis grossed $344,000 from 15 locations in its second weekend of platform release. Respective per-location averages for the weekend were $28,067 for Saving Mr. Banks and $22,933 for Inside Llewyn Davis. Saving Mr. Banks is scheduled to be released in an estimated 2,200 locations next weekend, while Inside Llewyn Davis (which has grossed $0.898 million in ten days) will expand into additional locations next weekend.