Box Office: ‘Hobbit,’ ‘Unbroken,’ ‘Into the Woods’ in Dead Heat for New Year’s Crown

Hollywood is ringing in the New Year on a high note despite a disappointing 2014.

Thanks to holiday hits such as “Unbroken” and “Into the Woods,” the Christmas box office was up 7% year-over-year, and the good times will likely continue this weekend as three films are well positioned to each top $20 million in ticket sales.

It should be a photo finish for first place between “Unbroken,” “Into the Woods” and last weekend’s champ, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.”

“I think they’ll give ‘The Hobbit’ a run for its money,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Either one could end up in first.”

Analysts and studio sources say the eventual winner could hit roughly $25 million for the post-holiday weekend. “Into the Woods,” with its more family-friendly elements, may hold a slight edge over the other two contenders, although “The Hobbit” continued to be the highest-grossing film on Monday. The question is, will enough Middle-earth fanatics come back for a second helping, and are there still J.R.R. Tolkien aficionados holding out on making the trip to the multiplexes?

The calendar seems to be working in the movie business’s favor. New Year’s Day falls on a Thursday, which effectively elongates the weekend, as many potential moviegoers will be on vacation for the four days. Despite the strong finish, ticket receipts for the year will likely end down 5%, with attendance suffering a similar drop.

The strong crop of holdovers will dominate the weekend top five, which should be rounded out by “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” and newcomer “Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.” The horror sequel should gross roughly $10 million across 2,602 theaters after debuting in Thursday late shows. Relativity Media is distributing “Women in Black,” which it picked up for $1 million. The previous “Woman in Black” movie debuted to $20.9 million in 2012, but it featured “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role.

“Annie,” Sony’s remake of the venerable musical about an optimistic orphan, should capture the sixth slot.

In limited release, A24 is fielding “A Most Violent Year.” The look at a pre-gentrification Big Apple will debut on four screens in New York and Los Angeles, getting in under the wire when it comes to Oscar contention. There are also a number of awards favorites, such as “American Sniper” and “Selma,” looking to capitalize on impressive debuts in a handful of theaters before rolling out across the country in the coming weeks.

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