By Daniel Garris
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies took in $40.92 million this weekend to remain in first place. The third and final installment of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy was down a healthy 25 percent from last weekend. The film's second weekend hold was better than that of 2003's The Return of the King (which fell 30 percent) and a bit weaker than that of 2002's The Two Towers (which fell 21 percent). With those comparisons in mind, this weekend's hold was a strong sign for the film going forward. The Battle of the Five Armies has grossed $168.02 million in twelve days. That places the film 19.5 percent ahead of the $140.64 million twelve-day take of last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and essentially on par with the $168.18 million twelve-day gross of 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
It was a very close race for second place this weekend between Disney's Into the Woods and Universal's Unbroken. Unbroken had been estimated on Sunday to take second, but Into the Woods ultimately pulled ahead on Sunday to claim second for the frame. The two films were separated by just $430,478 for the weekend and by an even slimmer $85,818 over their respective first four days of release.
Into the Woods opened with $31.05 million over the weekend. The Rob Marshall directed musical featuring Meryl Streep opened on the high end of expectations with a four-day debut of $46.14 million. The film's start was especially impressive given its relatively modest 2,440 location count. That gave Into the Woods a per-location average of $12,726 for the three-day frame, which was the highest location average among wide releases this weekend. Into the Woods is running 21 percent ahead of the $38.03 million four-day start of 2008's Bedtime Stories and a slim 5 percent behind the $48.75 million four-day gross of 2012's Les Misérables.
The audience breakdown for Into the Woods skewed towards moviegoers over the age of 25 (57 percent) and towards female moviegoers (54 percent). Family audiences made up 38 percent of the film's overall audience. Into the Woods received a B rating on CinemaScore.
Unbroken opened in third with $30.62 million. The Angelina Jolie directed war drama has exceeded expectations in a big way with a four-day start of $46.06 million. Mixed critical reviews clearly haven't hampered the film out of the gates, which was aided greatly by the pre-existing fanbase of the Laura Hillenbrand written book. Unbroken is running an impressive 19 percent ahead of the $38.73 million four-day start of 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and 7 percent ahead of the $43.02 million four-day take of 2012's Django Unchained.
Unbroken received an A- rating on CinemaScore, which suggests the film is going over significantly better with moviegoers than it has with critics. The audience breakdown for the film skewed heavily towards moviegoers 25 years and older (71 percent) and towards female moviegoers (52 percent).
Fox's Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb claimed fourth place with $20.20 million. The third installment of the Ben Stiller led franchise was up an impressive 18 percent from last weekend's softer than expected debut. Secret of the Tomb has grossed $54.73 million in ten days. That places the film 10.5 percent ahead of the $49.53 million ten-day take of 2011's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb has already registered a current total gross to opening weekend ratio of 3.20 to 1 thanks to very strong holiday holding power thus far.
Annie rounded out the weekend's top five with $16.50 million. Sony's musical remake starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz increased 4 percent over last weekend. Annie has grossed $45.74 million in ten days, which places the film 8 percent behind the mentioned ten-day gross of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. The total gross to opening weekend ratio for Annie already stands at 2.88 to 1.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 placed in sixth with $10.06 million. In the process, the third installment of Lionsgate's blockbuster franchise surpassed the $300 million domestic milestone this weekend, making it the second release of 2014 to do so (joining Guardians of the Galaxy). Mockingjay - Part 1 was up 28 percent over last weekend and has grossed $306.72 million in 38 days.
Paramount's The Gambler debuted in seventh with $9.13 million. The Mark Wahlberg led drama was off to a solid four-day start of $14.13 million, especially when considering its modest price tag and that it its scheduled wide release was fairly last minute. However, early long-term signs for the film haven't been as promising, as the film registered a front-loaded four-day to three-day ratio of 1.55 to 1 and received a lackluster C+ rating on CinemaScore.
The Imitation Game had a very successful expansion this weekend with an eighth place take of $7.93 million from just 747 locations. The awards season hopeful from The Weinstein Company grossed $11.01 million over the four-day frame and has grossed a very promising $14.63 million to date.
The news wasn't anywhere near as good for fellow Weinstein Company release Big Eyes. The Tim Burton directed drama starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz debuted with $3.00 million over the weekend and just $4.41 million in its first four days. Big Eyes was launched in a somewhat surprising 1,307 locations this weekend and in hindsight was probably better suited for a more limited release this weekend.
Also opening this weekend was Sony's much buzzed about The Interview. After initially having its wide release canceled, Sony gave the comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco a last-minute limited theatrical release in 331 smaller independent locations (while also giving the film a digital release). The results of the film's theatrical release were mixed, as it grossed $1.80 million over the weekend and $2.84 million in four days.
On the platform front, awards season hopefuls American Sniper and Selma were both off to very strong starts this weekend. Warner's American Sniper took in $633,000 over the weekend and $874,000 in four days from 4 locations, while Paramount's Selma took in $571,450 over the weekend and $893,626 in four days from 19 locations. That gave American Sniper and Selma respective three-day per-location averages of $158,250 and $30,076. Selma is scheduled to receive a nationwide expansion on January 9th, while American Sniper will receive a nationwide expansion one week later on January 16th.