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By Daniel Garris

Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies took in $9.96 million on Thursday. The third and final chapter of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy was down a sharp 59 percent from Wednesday's performance. The large daily percentage decline on Thursday isn't the greatest initial sign going forward, though it should be noted that such a large percentage of Wednesday's reported gross coming from Tuesday night shows does inflate Thursday's percentage decrease a bit. In comparison, 2002's The Two Towers fell 47 percent on its first Thursday to gross $13.88 million. With a two-day start of $34.41 million, The Battle of the Five Armies is running 14 percent behind the $40.04 million take of The Two Towers. At its current pace, The Battle of the Five Armies appears headed for a five-day start in the neighborhood of $85 million.

Fox's Exodus: Gods and Kings held steady in second place with $1.22 million. The pricey Ridley Scott directed biblical epic starring Christian Bale was down 7 percent from Wednesday. Exodus: Gods and Kings placed in second for the week (behind The Battle of the Five Armies) with a seven-day start of $30.84 million. While that was on the low end of pre-release expectations, the film is off to an underwhelming start with its price tag in mind and has been displaying early signs of being significantly front-loaded for a December release.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 took in $1.09 million to remain in third. The third installment of Lionsgate's blockbuster franchise increased 6 percent over Wednesday and was down a healthy 24 percent from last Thursday. Mockingjay - Part 1 placed in third for the week with $17.28 million. That represented a 38 percent decline from the previous frame and brings the film's four-week total to $281.48 million. Mockingjay - Part 1 is now $18.52 million away from becoming the second release of 2013 to reach the $300 million domestic milestone.

Penguins of Madagascar placed in fourth for the day with $0.502 million. The 3D computer animated film from Fox and DreamWorks Animation was up 9 percent from Wednesday and down only 2 percent from last Thursday. Penguins of Madagascar placed in fourth for the week with $9.11 million. That was down 30 percent from the previous week and brings the film's 23-day total to an underwhelming $60.65 million.

Paramount's Top Five continued to claim sixth place with $0.439 million. The critically acclaimed comedy starring and directed by Chris Rock was down 2 percent from Wednesday. Top Five rounded out the week's top five with a seven-day start of $8.89 million, which was on the low end of expectations. The film will be playing in 1,307 locations this weekend.

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By Daniel Garris

Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies debuted with $24.45 million on Wednesday. That figure includes the estimated $11.2 million the film grossed from Tuesday night shows (which represented a very significant 45.8 percent of the film's opening day gross).

The Battle of the Five Armies opened 22 percent below the $31.19 million opening day performance of last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, though that was expected given that The Desolation of Smaug opened on a Friday. The Battle of the Five Armies opened 6.5 percent below the $26.16 million Wednesday start of 2002's The Two Towers, which went on to gross $102.05 million in its first five days of release. Given that The Battle of the Five Armies will likely experience more initial front-loading in comparison; the last chapter of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy appears to be on course for a five-day start in the area of $88 million to $95 million.

After leading the daily box office for the previous five days, Fox's Exodus: Gods and Kings fell to second on Wednesday with $1.31 million. The pricey Ridley Scott directed biblical epic starring Christian Bale was down a sharp 41 percent from Tuesday. Clearly Exodus: Gods and Kings took a big hit from the arrival of The Battle of the Five Armies in the marketplace. Exodus: Gods and Kings has grossed $29.61 million in six days of release. That places the film an underwhelming 2 percent behind the $30.2 million six-day start of the far less expensive Son of God earlier this year.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 was down one spot and 25 percent from Tuesday to land in third with $1.02 million. The third installment of Lionsgate's blockbuster franchise was down a healthy 26.5 percent from last Wednesday. Mockingjay - Part 1 has grossed $280.39 million in 27 days. That leaves the film $19.61 million away from becoming the second release of 2013 to reach the $300 million domestic milestone. Mockingjay - Part 1 is running 22.5 percent behind the $361.59 million 27-day take of last year's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Paramount's Top Five placed in sixth for the day with $0.447 million. The critically acclaimed comedy starring and directed by Chris Rock was down one spot and a solid 24 percent from Tuesday. Top Five has grossed $8.44 million in six days of moderate release. The low-budget film continues to perform on the low end of expectations, but hopes to hold up well going forward thanks in part to strong critical reviews and planned expansions.

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Thursday Update: Warner's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies debuted with $24.45 million on Wednesday. That figure includes the estimated $11.2 million the film grossed from Tuesday night shows (which represented a very significant 45.8 percent of the film's opening day gross).

The Battle of the Five Armies opened 22 percent below the $31.19 million opening day performance of last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, though that was expected given that The Desolation of Smaug opened on a Friday. The Battle of the Five Armies opened 6.5 percent below the $26.16 million Wednesday start of 2002's The Two Towers, which went on to gross $102.05 million in its first five days of release. Given that The Battle of the Five Armies will likely experience more initial front-loading in comparison; the last chapter of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy appears to be on course for a five-day start in the area of $88 million to $95 million.

Wednesday Update: Warner Bros. reports that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies earned $11.2 million from Tuesday evening shows. That's quite a bit more than the $8.8 million that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug posted from evening shows on Thursday, December 12, 2013.

More coming soon...

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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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