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Weekend Box Office Top Ten: 'The Hobbit' Breaks Records, But What Does It Mean?

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 16, 2012 at 1:08PM

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" delivered about 70% of the top ten revenue in the pre-Christmas doldrums. Grosses almost doubled from last weekend and climbed about 13% from last year, making this a very successful weekend indeed. Yes, "The Hobbit" set a record for December weekend openings-- in raw dollar count--but the numbers suggest that it might not be quite as strong as seems at first glance. Down the line, a whole series of Thanskgiving and earlier releases show few signs of giving up their screens as a whole slew of major new films prepare to battle to grab their spots over the next two weeks.
A shot from the opening credit sequence in "Skyfall"
A shot from the opening credit sequence in "Skyfall"

$7,000,000 (-35%) in 2,924 theaters (-477); PSA: $2,394; Cumulative: $272,366,000

Now approaching the $1 billion mark worldwide, and certain to pass that in the weeks ahead, this monster James Bond hit continues to impress. The previous Bond, "Quantum of Solace," had a gross of $3.7 million by comparison the same weekend, with a total gross $115 million less at this point. This could very well be the biggest improved performance on a consecutive film in a successful series released in a normal time period.

What comes next: Christmas, and easily enough ongoing dates to push this past the $300 million level,

5. The Life of Pi (20th Century-Fox) - Week 4; Last weekend: #5

$5,400,000 (-35%) in 2,548 theaters (-398); PSA: $2,119; Cumulative: $69,559,000

Holding once again quite well, already approaching $70 million with more than $100 million additonally already in from the rest of the world with many territories yet to open, this risky and expensive project continues to move toward impressive and hardly assumed profit.

Last year, "Hugo," a similarly ambitious 3-D project, also centering on a boy, also directed by an Oscar-winning director, with slightly better reviews, was following a similar release pattern to significantly less success. The same weekend last year, it grossed $3.7 million (about two-thirds) and had grossed $39 million to that point (only a little more than half of the "Pi" take so far. It then went on to ten Oscar nominations--with the sense that its underperformance had hurt its chances to win Best Picture.

What comes next: It will be tough for Fox to hold on to close to this number of screens through Christmas, even though the film, like others, would be expected to improve. But, even more than "Hugo," it should be able to sustain enough to benefit from the bounty, then, like other likely nominees, stage something of a comeback next month.

6. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (Lionsgate) - Week 5; Last weekend: #3

$5,175,000 (-44%) in 3,042 theaters (-604); PSA: $1,701; Cumulative: $276,365,000

Doing almost $1 million more than "Part 1" did the same weekend last year, and having a modest fall for the time of year and the amount of business taken in so far, this has performed at least up to and arguably beyond expectations.

What comes next: Not strong enough to gain much of a Christmas boost, but it will still add on enough to hit $300 million or so, plus bigger international grosses that have enjoyed a more substantial jump from last year.

7. Wreck-It Ralph (Buena Vista) - Week 7; Last weekend: #7

$3,273,000 (-33%) in 2,249 theaters (-497); PSA: $1,455; Cumulative: $168,779,000

Despite another drop in theater totals, this fell only a third, keeping its lengthy run alive, and sustaining hope for reasonable matinee holdovers in enough theaters to push this to close to $200 million.

What comes next: This strength comes at the right time for one of three Disney Oscar animated feature contenders.

8. Playing for Keeps (FilmDistrict) - Week 2; Last weekend: #6

$3,247,000 (-43%) in 2,840 theaters (+3); PSA: $1,143; Cumulative: $10,838,000

Getting a very modest second weekend with huge competition, this Millennium Films production limped over the $10 million mark with no great expectations for going for more than a partial week more (with Christmas Day releases a major roadblock).

What comes next: Very little.

9. Red Dawn (FilmDistrict) - Week 4; Last weekend: #8

$2,394,000 (-43%) in 2,250 theaters (-504); PSA: $1,064; Cumulative: $40,889,000

Continuing as the only pure action film in the market, "Red Dawn" completes its four week run in the top 10 - longer than expected - with another OK showing.

What comes next: Again, the end is near, but for FilmDistrict, a much better result than "Playing for Keeps."

10. Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein) - Week 5; Last weekend: #11

$2,084,000 (-4%) in 371 theaters (unchanged); PSA: $5,617; Cumulative: $16,954,000

Will slow and steady win the race? The small fall-off this weekend - particularly rare for this time of time - got SLP into the top ten with the same small number of theaters it has played at for four weeks now. With a strong week in awards and nominations, this keeps the film positioned for continued playoff through the holiday.

What comes next:  Grosses, even it is stays at close to this number of theaters, should grow starting on Christmas Day, then accumulated word of mouth and a planned major expansion playing off Oscar nominations next month is expected to help its award chances rise just at the right time.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office, Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Lincoln

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.