The post-Christmas weekend can be one of the biggest of the year. And so it was. The top 10 grossed $171 million, up a healthy $17 million from 2012, which nudges the year's totals slightly ahead of 2012. However the strong weekend total comes despite an uneven performance from a wide variety of films. The top three slots went to "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (at #1 on its third weekend), repeating "The Hobbit"'s three-weekend hold on the top spot, Thanksgiving holdover "Frozen," and "Anchorman 2" in its second weekend.
Five new wide releases (anemic "Justin Bieber Believe" did not crack the top 12) all placed lower over the holiday. Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" was the best, only ranking at #5 for the weekend. Two holdover awards contenders, "American Hustle" and "Saving Mr. Banks," boosted their numbers over the lucrative holiday.
Among limited run films, "Her" enjoyed a healthy expansion, while "August: Osage County" took in a mediocre $36,000 per screen on five New York/Los Angeles screens. "Lone Survivor" fared slightly better on two screens with a $46,000 PSA. More details in Arthouse Audit.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner Bros.) Week 3 - Last weekend #1
$29,850,000 (-5%) in 3,928 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $7,599; Cumulative: $190,304,000
Holding far better than the post-Christmas weekend of the first "Hobbit" film last year (which fell 13%) and not much below that film's gross (about $2 million less), you can forget any residual talk about this second series entry being a disappointment. While the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy's grosses did rise along the way, that was an exceptionally strong series. "Desolation of Smaug" now looks headed toward an easy $250 million-plus domestic take, with worldwide (international is performing ahead of US/Canada by some margin) heading toward the last film's mighty $1 billion take.
What comes next: This actually has a shot of a fourth straight #1 next weekend, more than last year's entry achieved.
2. Frozen (Buena Vista) Week - Last weekend: #3
$28,845,000 (+47%) in 3,335 theaters (-205); PSA (per screen average): $8,649:; Cumulative: $248,366,000
Since 2000, no November-released film has placed in the top four at the end of December ("Toy Story 2" was the last, also coming in at #2). That includes huge hits in the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" series as well as "Skyfall" and "Lincoln" last year, all continuing to play through the holidays but lagging behind after great early performances. "Frozen" was helped not only by its clear appeal to family audiences, but also by the lack of any other competitor (Fox's "Walking With Dinosaurs" failed to gain traction). This didn't start out as one of the top animated openers -- several summer releases topped it, led by "Despicable Me 2." But this has had an extraordinary hold and isn't done yet, with more holiday playtime ahead. This is already nearing $400 million worldwide.
What comes next: Expect this to play through January, with $300 million domestic likely and a chance to rival "DM 2" as the highest-grossing animated release of 2013.