Giving the U.S. box office a badly needed boost, the finale of Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy is heading toward as much as $80 million in its first five days.

Friday estimates showed “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” taking in $14 million to $15 million at 3,875 locations on its third day.

That means “Five Armies” will also come out far ahead during  the pre-Christmas weekend over two new entries — Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” which is headed for about $23 million to $26 million, and Sony’s reboot of “Annie” with about $20 million, although some Friday forecasts were far more bullish on “Annie.”

“Five Armies” marched to $34.4 million on Wednesday and Thursday. Its projected $80 million total — slightly above New Line’s recent guidance — would rank as the eighth-highest  opening of 2014.

If the numbers hold, “Five Armies” will come in about 35% lower than the $124 million in the first five days of 2003’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the finale of Jackson’s first trilogy.

The previous “Hobbit” films debuted on Fridays. “An Unexpected Journey” grossed $84.6 million in 2012 on its first weekend, and “The Desolation of Smaug” took in $73.6 million in its initial weekend last year. The two Hobbit films went on to gross nearly $2 billion combined.

The impressive start for “Five Armies” should also dispel a bit of the gloom for the studios and exhibitors, who have seen U.S. box office fall 5% this year — and then had to deal with Sony’s decision to pull “The Interview” out of its Christmas release slot in the wake of terrorist threats.

Friday estimates for Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” came in at $7.5 million, including a moderate $491,000 from 2,531 locations in latenight shows Thursday. The 2006 and 2009 versions of the franchise combined for nearly $1 billion worldwide.

Sony reported that “Annie” grossed $360,000 at 2,400 locations in latenight shows Thursday. The studio has maintained that the musical, starring Quvanzhane Wallis, should come in at around $15 million, but tracking on titles that appeal mainly to children has been unpredictable.

Friday estimates for “Annie” were around $7 million, indicating that the film — set in contemporary New York City — is headed for slightly above $20 million.

Fox’s second weekend of “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will battle for the fourth slot with Lionsgate’s fifth weekend of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1” in the $10 million to $12 million range.

For “Exodus,” that would represent a decline of more than 50% and leave the Christian Bale religious tale with $42 million in 10 days. For “Mockingjay,” it would be an impressive hold of under 20% with a 31-day U.S. cume of $292 million — just $40 million short of the top domestic grosser, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

UPDATE, 4:50 p.m. PST — An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated the opening five-day U.S. gross of “Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King.” The correct figure is $124.1 million.