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Weekend Box Office: Five Armies Stands Strong; Unbroken, Into the Woods Open Big

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By Chris Kavan - 12/28/14 at 08:48 PM CT

The saying about saving the best for last? It looks like audiences took that to heart as the $189.4 million taken in by the top 12 movies over the last weekend of the year was also the highest-grossing weekend of the year as well. It helped end things on a high note as the Christmas releases were up 7% compared to the holiday time frame last year. Despite this last hurrah, the overall box office remains about 5% lower compared to 2013 - mostly due to a muted summer - but last year was a record-breaking year, so that was to be expected. I really think next year is going to rival 2013 - we'll see how things turn out, though.


After opening to a $54.7 million weekend, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies held strong, dipping only 24% in its second weekend to $41.4 million. That represents the best second-weekend for The Hobbit films and bested the 30% drop Return of the King boasted in 2003. Granted, the Christmas holiday has a lot to do with that, but as it stands, with a total of $168.5 million, it is now looking like Five Armies is at least going to match the $258 million Desolation of Smaug brought in - an probably top it - though it will likely fall short of the $300 million mark. New releases looks sparse over the next few weeks, so Five Armies should have a nice run ahead of it.


Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, following the true story of Louis Zamperini, had the best opening out of the newcomers with a $31.7 million weekend ($47.3 million for the Christmas holiday frame). Despite having a relatively fresh cast with few big names, Unbroken rode the wave of inspiration and triumph in the face of adversity to some impressive heights. The story isn't exactly what one usually expects out of a holiday release, but thanks to some clever marketing, it helped Unbroken take the third-highest Christmas opening of all time. That opening is ahead of Django Unchained ($30.1 million) and the fourth-best for a WWII-based film. It also opened higher than fellow WWII-themed films Fury ($23.7 million) and Monuments Men ($22 million). The audience was 52% female and 71% over 25. They awarded in an "A-" Cinemascore, which should mean it will hold up well in the coming weeks.


The weekend's other big release was the dark, fantasy musical Into the Woods. It wasn't far behind Unbroken as it had a $31 million debut for a $46.1 million total holiday take. With an all-star cast leading the way, it bested the three-day opening of Les Miserables ($27.3 million) and is the third-best opening for a musical behind Enchanted and, ugh, High School Musical 3. Disney is riding the fantasy wave high following the success of Frozen and Maleficent - as well as having a built-in Broadway audience - plus that remarkable cast. The audience was relatively split - females made up 54% while 55% was over 25. The movie only earned a "B" Cinemascore (likely due to the somewhat darker subject matter) but, if it holds up similar to Les Miserables, it will wind up with around $140 million.


Thanks to the families being out an about over the holiday, Secret of the Tomb enjoyed a 20.5% boost compared to its opening weekend - taking in $20.6 million and topping the $50 million mark with a $55.3 million total. Even with the holiday taken into account, that is still a rather impressive gain week-to-week - it is now looking like the sequel will cross the $100 million mark, but this goodwill won't be enough to cover its $127 million budget nor keep it from being the lowest-grossing film in the series. With foreign grosses, though, it should wind up in the black.


Also benefiting from the family crowds, Annie was also up over last weekend, jumping just under 5% - taking in $16.6 million for a new total of $45.8 million. It is rapidly closing in on its $65 million budget and should approach the $80 million mark before it ends its run in theaters.

Outside the top five: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 become just the second movie of 2014 (after Guardians of the Galaxy) to cross the $300 million mark. Up a staggering 27% (even though it lost nearly 400 theaters from its total count) over last weekend, it took in an even $10 million to wind up with $306.6 million. It's still looking good to become the highest-grossing film of the year.

The other new wide-release film, The Gambler, was a bust with moviegoers. Opening to just $9.3 million ($14.3 million for the Christmas period) down in 7th place, audiences only gave it a "C+" Cinemascore. Chances are this one is going to fade fast, and even operating on a modest $25 million budget, it's long-term chances don't look very good.

Some awards season buzz didn't help out Tim Burton's latest film Big Eyes, based on the life of artist Margaret Keane and husband Walter (who took credit for much of her work) the film opened to just under $3 million down in 14th place.It took in $4.4 million for the holiday time frame and a total of under $20 million is likely.

After hacking demands pulled it from major theater chains, The Interview was released in a handful of indie theaters nationwide (311 to be exact). Audiences gave it a warm welcome with a $1.8 million ($2.2 million total) opening. It took in over $15 million from streaming and VOD sales as well. It's about the best Sony could have hoped for.

In limited release, American Sniper scored the second-best live action limited debut of all time (behind this year's Grand Budapest Hotel). Opening in four locations, it took in $610,000 for a whopping $152,500 per-theater average. That ranks 11th all-time (though most are taken up by animated films) and means it should be looking forward to some good numbers once it expands.

Also getting some love in limited release was Selma. The civil rights drama opened to $590,000 in 19 theaters for a $31,053 per-theater average. That is a very solid result and as it also expands (going wide by Jan. 9th) it should command some good results as well.

Speaking of expansions, The Imitation Game - based on the life of Alan Turing - had its biggest theater jump yet, adding 713 to its total count and it increased by near 824% in the process - jumping all the way from 16th to 8th place with $8 million for a new total of $14.6 million. Thus far, it is tracking ahead of The King's Speech (which added $4.5 million on its nationwide debut) and with awards season just around the corner, it's looking like it will be able to top at least the $50 million mark.

Next week thing quiet down a bit as the only new wide release will be The Woman in Black 2: The Angel of Death. We'll see if that holiday goodwill spills into the new year as we ring in 2015.


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