‘The Hobbit’ Strong with $31 Million Start Friday Despite Trailing Original

'A Madea Christmas' second Friday with $5.7 million, but expected to fall behind 'Frozen' for third

Warner Bros.’ “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” opened to $31.1 million domestically Friday, a solid start as the fantasy epic aims to broaden its appeal at the worldwide box office.

“Desolation of Smaug” is expected to take north of $70 million at the U.S. Box office while “An Unexpected Journey” bowed roughly 13% higher with $84.6 million last year. The opposite is true abroad though where “Smaug” opened 3% ahead of its predecessor on Wednesday.

The original “Hobbit” earned a whopping $714 million overseas and over $1 billion worldwide.

“Smaug” is also riding stronger reviews with a Cinemascore of A- so long-term prospects are still highly profitable for the second fantasy adventure based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved novel.

Where Thursday’s late night showings were reportedly the second highest midnight haul for a December release on record, this three-day take will be closer to fourth place for December bows, just ahead of the third “Lord of the Rings” film.

Imax showings accounted for about 13% of “Smaug’s” Stateside haul Friday.

Elsewhere, “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas” took second Friday with $5.7 million, but the Lionsgate laffer is expected to fall to third after Disney’s “Frozen” by Sunday, with between $15 million and $16 million. The Mouse’s toon tuner is looking at about $25 million in its fourth frame, which would bring its domestic cume above $160 million.

Early reports had “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” also from Lionsgate, beating “Madea Christmas” this weekend, but that no longer appears to be the case as the actioner heads to about $14 million in its fourth outing.

The weekend’s final opener, “American Hustle” from Sony, bowed on six screens with an admirable one-day per screen average of $35,000. That number is expected to jump to about $120,000 through Sunday, making for one of the best per screen openings for a live action film, behind “The Master” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

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