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

'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%.

Domestic

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%

Overseas

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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