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Box Office: ‘Hobbit’ Finale Marching Toward $88 Million

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is marching toward a box office victory.

The final installment in Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy grossed $16.6 million on Friday in the U.S. on its way to a likely haul of almost $54 million this weekend, which would put its five-day total at $88 million. This is far above recent estimates of $80 million.

The fantasy adventure is miles ahead of the other newcomers this pre-Christmas weekend. Another sequel, “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” is headed for $19 million, while the reboot of “Annie” trails slightly behind with $18.5 million. The films are in a neck-and-neck race after initial forecasts as late as Friday pegged “Secret of the Tomb” as the clear winner.

Aside from giving a much-needed boost to the U.S. box office, if estimates hold, “Five Armies” will have the year’s eighth highest-grossing opening, behind “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”

Despite the strong showing, “Five Armies” is behind the finale of Jackson’s first trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” which inspired this spinoff. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” made $124 million in 2003 during its first five days at the box office.

However, “Five Armies” is ahead of the previous installments of “The Hobbit.” “An Unexpected Journey” launched to $84.6 million in 2012 and “The Desolation of Smaug” debuted to $73.6 million last year. Unlike “The Battle of the Five Armies,” both opened on a Friday. The two films went on to gross nearly $2 billion combined.

Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” brought in $5.6 million on Friday. The comedy will likely earn north of $19 million in its first weekend – far below estimates that were as high as $26 million.

The previous installment, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” opened to $54.2 million in 2009, earning about $24 million more than the debut of 2006’s “Night at the Museum.” Collectively, the films earned just under $1 billion worldwide.

The adventure comedy stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Robin Williams in one of his final roles.

Meanwhile, Sony’s “Annie” debuted to $5.3 million on Friday at the U.S. box office. The musical is en route to an opening just between $18 million and $19 million, although the studio estimates a more modest $16 million to $17 million.

This is a welcomed victory for Sony, which is still reeling from the fallout following its decision to pull “The Interview” from theaters. The film’s A- CinemaScore may also be a good sign of things to come.

The pic, which stars Quvanzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, could have suffered from being leaked three weeks in advance of its theatrical release. It was one of four unreleased Sony movies posted online by hackers who have now been linked to North Korea.

Fox’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” came in fifth on Friday in its second weekend with $2.275 million. The Biblical epic, which opened at number one last weekend, is eyeing slightly more than $8 million this weekend — a 67% drop — which would inch it up to fourth place.

“Exodus” is in an extremely tight race with Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1,” which barely beat it for a fourth place finish. The final installment in the hit series made $2.28 million on Friday and will come in just under $8 million in its fifth weekend, which would mark a 37% decline. The Jennifer Lawrence-starrer will have earned over $289 million by Sunday.

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