Total 2013 Box Office Poised for Record, Despite ‘Hobbit’ Sequel Falling Short of Predecessor

Hobbit the Desolation of Smaug

'American Hustle' scores the year's largest debut per-screen average for a live-action film

Despite a softer-than-expected landing for Warner Bros.-New Line’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” with an estimated $73.7 million domestically, the box office saw a healthy resurgence over this time last year, thanks in large part to the holdover performance of Disney’s “Frozen,” which collected $22.2 million in its fourth frame.

“Smaug” grossed $205 million worldwide through Sunday; whereas, the original made $222 million opening weekend globally.

Ultimately, “The Desolation of Smaug,” from MGM, wasn’t able to match the Stateside start of its predecessor, which opened to $84 million this same weekend last year. That frame, however, lacked the added support that this weekend had of three films each grossing north of $10 million — “Frozen,”at No. 2; followed by the Lionsgate pair, “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas,” with $16.2 million; and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” ($13.2 million).

Internationally, though, “Smaug” is overperforming last year’s “Hobbit” territory-by-territory, totaling $131.2 million from 49 markets.

The year-over-year improvement bodes for the industry as a whole as pundits expect domestic B.O. to reach another record, hitting the $11 billion mark for the first time ever. Last year B.O. totaled $10.8 billion domestically.

Box office was up over 2012 less than 1% prior to this weekend.

“A Madea Christmas,” the only other wide release to brave “Smaug” this weekend, also underperformed; the film was expected to gross somewhere north of $20 million in three days.

While box office this weekend often is robust for tentpoles (a $74 million opening for “Smaug” is nothing to sneer at, even if it is less than the original), the market leading up to Christmas tends to be difficult for female-skewing films, in general, as women are the most preoccupied this time of year. “A Madea Christmas” skewed 67% female.

Launching at six locations post-Golden Globes nominations, Sony’s “American Hustle,” which received seven bids including best picture (comedy/musical), grossed a stellar $115,000 per-screen average, the largest for a live-action film this year. (“Frozen,” which has reached a boffo $164 million domestically and counting, opened to the largest per-screen at one.)

Concerning “The Hobbit,” audience reaction has been strong overall, with the film receiving an ‘A-‘ CinemaScore. That bodes well for the sequel as it tries to play catch-up with the original over the coming weeks.

“On a raw dollar-for-dollar basis, we were only off about 4% from the original,” said Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman, who estimates that wintry weather on the East Coast cost the film roughly $4 million this weekend.

“I honestly think that word-of-mouth on this film will help push us to a better place,” Fellman added.

Premium large-format engagements gave “Smaug” gave the film an additional boost, especially in Imax, which had a screen at each of the film’s top 10 locations (with the top two being both in Salt Lake City). Imax accounted for nearly 13% of the film’s total weekend gross, while all other PLF engagements led by Cinemark’s XD brand made up 8%.


Film (Weeks in release): 3-day gross*; Locations; Per-theater average; Cume*; Percentage change

  1. The Hobbit … Smaug (1): $73.7; 3,903; $18.877; $73.7; —
  2. Frozen (4): $22.2; 3,716; $5,970; $164.4; -30%
  3. A Madea Christmas (1): $16.2; 2,194; $7,293; $16.2; —
  4. Hunger Games … Fire (4): $13.2; 3,563; $3,691; $357.0; -50%
  5. Thor: The Dark World (6): $2.7; 2,264; $1,193; $198.1; -44%
  6. Out of the Furnace (2): $2.3; 2,101; $1,104; $9.5; -56%
  7. Delivery Man (4): $1.9; 2,041; $917; $28.0; -50%
  8. Philomena (4): $1.8; 835; $2,103; $11.0; -20%
  9. The Book Thief (6): $1.7; 1,158; $1,446; $14.9; -36%
  10. Homefront (3): $1.6; 2,102; $778; $18.4; -52%


Film (Weeks in release): 3-day gross*; Territories; Screens; Int’l cume*; Global cume*; Percentage change

  1. The Hobbit … Smaug (1): $131.2; 49; 16,000; $131.2; $205.0; —
  2.  Frozen (3): $31.5; 25; n/a; $101.6; $266.0;+3%
  3. Hunger Games … Fire (4): $19.5; 83; n/a; $372.9; $729.9; -56%
  4. Gravity (11): $8.0; 42; 2,870; $389.4; $642.2; -25%
  5. About Time (15): $4.2; 20; 650; $54.5; $69.7; -9%

*in millions of $

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  1. jackconner says:

    Reblogged this on jackconner and commented:
    I really enjoyed The Hobbit Part 2. After Part One my expectations were pretty low, but it turned out to be a fun, enjoyable adventure movie. The characters were better, the pacing was pretty excellent, the locales were spectacular — I especially enjoyed Erebor — and Smaug stole the show. He really was quite amazing, and in the high frame-rate format he looked like he was ready to slither off the screen. I’ve seen it in both formats, and vastly preferred the 2D/standard-frame-rate. It looked like a real movie, and a pretty good one, the only major problem being all the dodgy CGI, especially the awful-looking orcs. Surprisingly, in the HFR version the CGI was much improved, and the real-life scenery was breathtaking. Unfortunately, in HFR everything else looked like hell. The make-up looked like make-up, the sets looked like sets — it all just felt very fake. Except the CGI, and especially Smaug, who was stunning in HFR and, in my opinion, the only reason to see it in that format. Otherwise, check it out in 2D SFR and have a good time at a fun adventure movie. It’s by no means LOTR, but at least it’s not an embarrassment (although I do feel bad for Gandalf, always getting captured!). I’m already hankering for Part 3.

  2. MattH. says:

    I don’t understand all the surprise about the sequel not measuring up to the grosses of the original. The second film in the STAR WARS original trilogy, the second LORD OF THE RINGS, the second HARRY POTTER – none of these big sequels managed to gross more than the first.

    It’s not a foregone conclusion these big tentpole sequels will gross more. It’s doing fine; that’s all that’s important.

  3. LJ says:

    JM: He was saying that as a whole, women are more preocupied this time of year. That is not a sexist remark, as it is still true that there are more stay at home moms than dads, although the gap is closing. Nothing sexist or wrong with that. He was also using this to back up why Madea has underperformed. It skewed 67% female, this is why it didn’t hit expectations. The only thing the author may be guilty of is needing to clarify this point more.

  4. JM says:

    Anybody else notice this statement: “While box office this weekend is often robust for tentpoles…the market leading up to Christmas tends to be difficult for female-skewing films, in general, as women are the most preoccupied this time of year.”

    What kind of subjective journalism is that? He provides no facts that prove that women are the “most preoccupied this time of year”, he just asserts to his readers that it’s definitely the case. The author’s sexism should certainly try to stray away from something as easy to do as a report on the weekend box office.

    Even worse, immediately following his completely factual and not at all degrading observation, Mr. Stewart provided a fact from this past weekend that completely undercuts his previous objective statement, writing, “‘A Madea Christmas’ skewed 67% female.”

    What is Mr. Stewart saying about Tyler Perry’s female audience’s lack of preoccupation this past weekend?

    My only hope is that this was the work of an unpaid intern, and not someone who expects to make a career out of journalism. Shame on the editors who let this one slip by.

    • John Shea says:

      Suggesting women are most preoccupied this time of the year in no way criticizes them, and is therefore an entirely innocent and harmless remark, even if incorrect.

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