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By Daniel Garris

Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies took in an estimated $6.02 million on Wednesday to lead the daily box office for an eighth straight day. The third and final chapter of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy experienced a 39 percent decline on Christmas Eve. In comparison, last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug declined 33 percent on Christmas Eve to gross $5.27 million (though it should be noted that was the film's twelfth day of release). The Battle of the Five Armies has grossed $113.96 million in eight days. That places the film 9 percent ahead of the $104.67 million eight-day take of The Desolation of Smaug and 7.5 percent behind the $123.23 million eight-day gross of 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Fox's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb grossed an estimated $2.78 million on Christmas Eve to remain in second. The third installment of the Ben Stiller led franchise was down 33 percent from Tuesday. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb has grossed a softer than expected $27.43 million in six days. The film is currently running 17 percent behind the $32.97 million six-day start of 2011's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

Fellow family film Annie held steady in third place with an estimated $2.03 million. Sony's musical remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz was down a sizable 43 percent from Tuesday. Annie continues to remain within shouting distance of Secret of the Tomb, as it has grossed $24.64 million in six days. That places Annie 25 percent behind the pace of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

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By Daniel Garris

Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies took in $9.80 million on Tuesday to lead the daily box office for a seventh consecutive day. In the process, the third and final chapter of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy surpassed the $100 million domestic milestone yesterday. The Battle of the Five Armies was up a solid 9 percent over Monday's performance. The film has grossed $107.94 million in its first week of release. That places The Battle of the Five Armies 12 percent ahead of the $96.05 million seven-day start of last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and 5 percent behind the $113.15 million seven-day take of 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Fox's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb grossed $4.14 million to remain in second. The third installment of the Ben Stiller led franchise had another nice daily hold on Tuesday, as it was up a strong 22 percent over Monday. With that said, the film is still running significantly below expectations with a five-day start of $24.65 million. That places Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb 16 percent behind the $29.46 million five-day take of 2011's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

Fellow family film Annie held steady in third place with $3.54 million. Sony's musical remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz increased 11 percent over Monday's performance. Annie continues to remain within shouting distance of Secret of the Tomb, as it has grossed $22.61 million in five days. Annie is currently running 23 percent behind the pace of the already mentioned Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 continued to claim fourth place with $1.91 million. The third installment of Lionsgate's blockbuster franchise was up 11 percent over Monday and up 39 percent over last Tuesday. Mockingjay - Part 1 has grossed $292.98 million in 33 days. The film is now just $7.02 million away from becoming the second release of 2014 to reach the $300 million domestic milestone.

Fox's Exodus: Gods and Kings rounded out the day's unchanged top five with $1.56 million. The pricey Ridley Scott directed biblical epic was up 21 percent from Monday and down 29 percent from last Tuesday. Exodus: Gods and Kings has grossed a lackluster $41.79 million through twelve days of release.

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12/24/14 Update #2: According to THR, YouTube, GooglePlay, XBox Video will make The Interview available at 10 a.m. PT. The price points will be $5.99 for a rental and $15.99 for an HD purchase. 

Update 12/24/14: According to CNN, Sony has reached a tentative agreement to stream The Interview on YouTube and Google Play. The studio is also currently in talks to book other online platforms for the film. 

Around 300 independent theaters have already booked the film for Christmas day.

 

Update 12/23/14: THR reports that Sony will allow screenings of The Interview in select locations--including an Alamo Drafthouse theater in Dallas/Ft. Worth and also the Plaza Theater in Atlanta--on Chirstmas Day. A VOD release is also allegedly in the works now.  

Update #3: In an official statement, Sony revealed that there are no further plans for the release of The Interview. This puts an end to the speculation that a VOD release could be an alternative to the cancelled theatrical run.

Update #2: Sony has cancelled the Christmas Day release of The Interview. Here's the official statement:"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release. We respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.

Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale - all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

Update #1: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are both writing that Regal, AMC, Cinemark, Carmike and Cineplex will not be playing The Interview in theaters. 

Other chains that will not play the film include B&B Theatres, Bow Tie Cinemas, Arclight Cinemas and Classic Cinemas. 

Earlier today, the National Association of Theatre Owners sent the following statement:

"The ability of our guests to enjoy the entertainment they choose in safety and comfort is and will continue to be a priority for theater owners. While we do not discuss security procedures or policies, NATO members are working closely with the appropriate security and law enforcement agencies. We are encouraged that the authorities have made progress in their investigation and we look forward to the time when the responsible criminals are apprehended. Until that happens, individual cinema operators may decide to delay exhibition of the movie so that our guests may enjoy a safe holiday movie season experiencing the many other exciting films we have to offer."


About NATO
The National Association of Theatre Owners is the largest exhibition trade organization in the world, representing more than 32,000 movie screens in all 50 states, and additional cinemas in 81 countries worldwide.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with a second office in North Hollywood, California, NATO represents its members in the heart of the nation's capital as well as the center of the entertainment industry. From these vantage points, NATO helps exhibition influence federal policy-making and work with movie distributors on all areas of mutual concern, from new technologies to legislation, marketing, and First Amendment issues. www.natoonline.org

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by Michael White

Director Rob Marshall's Oscar-winning Chicago helped ignite a revival of musical films that has given birth to hits such as Les Mis, another Oscar winner, and Mamma Mia! Marshall's latest production, Into the Woods, is based on the classic fairy tales of German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. In an interview with BoxOffice Pro, Marshall discussed his film and the relevance of the Grimms' cautionary tales in today's world. Into the Woods, from Walt Disney Company, opens in theaters on December 25.

Into the Woods is based on stories that are a couple of hundred years old. Most of us have heard them since we were toddlers, and yet they remain compelling. Why is that?

I guess that's why they're classic stories. They're human stories and humanity doesn't change. These are stories of greed and ambition. They deal with the very classic human condition, and that's why they remain. Straying from your path-you're told not to and then you do and when you do, Little Red Riding Hood meets the wolf. In our movie they all realize the consequences post-"happily ever after." Jack learns, maybe I shouldn't have stolen from the giant and Cinderella realizes, maybe I shouldn't have attended the ball. Even though it's based on classic material, it feels very much like today. It's an incredibly funny, joyous piece, but it also deals with reality.

We talk about Shakespeare and the genius that makes his work enduring. Did the Grimm brothers have a similar genius that makes these stories so foundational?

Yes, I think that's why Stephen Sondheim turned to these stories in the first place. He went to the Grimm story of Cinderella. It's a much more sophisticated story than the [Charles] Perrault version of Cinderella. Perrault's story is about a pumpkin changing into a coach. In the Grimm version, Cinderella goes to the ball three times, and she chooses to go home each time and there is a very complex question of why she does that. And the Stephen Sondheim piece answers the question, was that the right thing? There's a beautiful line in our film in which the fairy godmother asks her, "Are you certain that what you wish for is what you want?"

What is the greatest challenge in adapting a stage play to film?

You want to retain what you can of the elements that work onstage, but you want to make sure you're always serving the film. Obviously on the stage you're sort of in a false place; you're in a theater where there's a proscenium, usually, so you know you're not in a real place. You can accept people singing, for instance, more easily than you can on film, which is a much more realistic medium. So one of the key issues for me is explaining, why is this person singing. One of the reasons I thought Into the Woods would work as a film is that the opening prologue is 16 minutes long. It's a combination of both singing and speaking, all very seamless, back and forth, and that's very helpful because you establish the language immediately. I've always felt if the audience knows what the rules are and how the story's going to be told up front, they'll go with you.

There has been a fair amount of discussion about what changes were made in adapting Into the Woods for the screen. I think Sondheim started that discussion with some comments he made in an interview. My understanding is that you actually have retained all of the major elements of the play, such as Rapunzel's death and the infidelity and the darker tone.

First, I would say Stephen Sondheim was incredibly upset by that article, because it so misrepresented what his feelings were, and he admitted that at that point he had not seen the film. It was such a misleading piece because it was actually the opposite. We were incredibly careful with all of the decision making, not only to retain all of the parts of the stage play, as long as they work on film, but also to retain the turn of tone in the play; it's essential that it be there. So the darkness is all there.

Broadway, of course, is not a children's venue, but Disney films are. Do you feel you hit the balance between dark and happy so that parents will be comfortable bringing their children to see Into the Woods?

I do. To me it's very much a fairy tale for the 21st century. It's a fairy tale for children and parents post-9/11. It deals with issues that are relevant today, specifically with loss. I grew up in a very different time than children today, with terrorism and shootings and climate change and all the fear, which is represented in the film by the giant; it's a metaphor for fear. And the play deals with how do you move through post-"happily ever after." Children need the tools for how you do that. There is a beautiful song called "No One is Alone," and I think that is one of the central messages of the piece, that no one is alone. I very much feel it's a family movie; I think it's an important discussion. And we've been given a PG rating. It's an incredibly joyous, funny, and fantastic piece that also has a message and deals with reality and real issues, too.

The Grimm brothers' stories are dark themselves.

That's because all of those stories are 100 percent cautionary. They all began that way. And these really are the grim fairy tales.

How did you decide what changes were needed? In the play, for example, you have the narrator who breaks the wall and speaks to the audience, but he is not in the film.

One of the things that I did, which I was very keen to do, was work with James Lapine, who wrote the stage play and the screenplay, and work with Stephen Sondheim, so that when we made the adaptation we were able to maintain the integrity of the piece. I was so impressed with James's and Stephen's willingness to consider changes. So often I found I was the keeper of the stage version, saying, "Don't change that."

You have roots in bringing classic material from the stage to television, working as a choreographer on adaptations such as Cinderella. Did that background make you more comfortable with this?

With each film, with each time out, you learn more and you try to bring that expertise to the next project. I do know this was a real passion project for me. I met with Stephen Sondheim right around the time Chicago opened and I said, "I would really love to do a musical of yours on film." We talked about Sweeney Todd and we talked about Follies, and he said, "I think Into the Woods would be perfect for you." And that stayed with me over the years. I did feel very connected to this piece. I love what it says about the parent-child relationship and moving forward.

Chicago was the first musical in decades to win an Oscar, a very successful film. Do you think that opened the door for subsequent musical films that have come out and done well, productions like Mamma Mia! and Les Mis?

I would like to think there has been a rebirth of musicals. I felt a responsibility to help move that forward, and I am thrilled that more musicals are being made. If we did open the door, or kick it open a little bit, I'm incredibly proud we were able to do that.

What is the future for this genre? Do you think it will remain part of cinema?

I do. It's an American art form, musicals, and it's something we should hold very dear. Of course they're very fragile, too, because when they're not done properly, people think the genre's not good. With the scale of a musical, the size and complexity of it, it's tricky to make work. So each time out I try to be as conscious of that as possible and make sure it works as a piece. With this piece it's particularly rewarding because the storytelling is so seamless between the music and the dialogue. So I felt I had great material in front of me.

 

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By Daniel Garris

Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies led the daily box office on Monday with $9.01 million. The third and final chapter of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy has comfortably led the daily box office for each of the past six days. The Battle of the Five Armies was down 46 percent from Sunday's performance, which was among the day's larger daily percentage declines on Monday. The film has grossed $98.14 million in six days and is set to surpass the $100 million domestic mark today. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Fives Armies is running 8 percent ahead of the $90.99 million six-day start of last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (which opened on a Friday).

On the heels of this weekend's softer than expected start, Fox's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb held up nicely on Monday with a $3.41 million second place take. The third installment of the Ben Stiller led franchise was down 30 percent from Sunday. With schools out of session for the holidays, daily holds were strong in general for family fare on Monday. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb surpassed the $20 million mark yesterday and has grossed $20.51 million in four days. That places the film 21 percent behind the $25.96 million four-day start of 2011's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

Fellow family film Annie followed closely behind in third with $3.20 million. Sony's musical remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz was down 29 percent from Sunday. Annie continues to perform very similarly to Secret of the Tomb, as it has grossed $19.07 million in four days. The two films may very well remain close to one another throughout the holiday season, though it should be noted that Annie was far less expensive than Secret of the Tomb. Annie is currently running 26.5 percent behind the pace of the earlier mentioned Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 claimed fourth place with $1.72 million. The third installment of Lionsgate's blockbuster franchise was down 30 percent from Sunday and up 54 percent over last Monday. Mockingjay - Part 1 surpassed the $290 million mark yesterday and has grossed $291.07 million in 32 days. The film is now just $8.93 million away from becoming the second release of 2014 to reach the $300 million domestic milestone.

Fox's Exodus: Gods and Kings rounded out Monday's top five with $1.29 million. The pricey Ridley Scott directed biblical epic was down 50 percent from Sunday, which represented the day's largest daily percentage decline among wide releases.  The film was down 35 percent from last Monday. Exodus: Gods and Kings surpassed the $40 million mark yesterday and has grossed a lackluster $40.23 million through eleven days of release.

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