WINNER OF THE WEEK: Middle-earth. Over a Christmas weekend with five new wide-release movies, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug remained on top for the third straight weekend. It earned an estimated $29.9 million, losing only a hair (5 percent) of last weekend's business. Frozen was close behind with an estimated $28.8 million. The only truly kid-friendly movie out there, it actually did 46 percent better than last weekend, even though it lost 205 screens.
The top new film was Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, which debuted in fifth place with an estimated $18.5 million from Friday to Sunday and a total of $34.3 million since it opened on Wednesday, Christmas Day. (The Leonardo DiCaprio picture was actually in a close three-way battle for third place, a battle won by Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which earned an estimated $20.2 million, followed by American Hustle, which claimed $19.6 million.) Wolf's take was well under the $23 million pundits had predicted, perhaps because of very poor word-of-mouth (it earned just a C grade at CinemaScore), or perhaps because a three-hour orgy of hookers and blow didn't say "Christmas" to most viewers.
Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty opened more in line with expectations, debuting in seventh place and earning an estimated $13.0 million ($25.6 million over the five-day weekend).
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Canada. Or at least two Canadians in particular, Keanu Reeves and Justin Bieber. Reeves' action spectacle 47 Ronin, which reportedly cost as much as $200 million, opened in ninth place with just an estimated $9.8 million over the weekend ($20.6 million over the five-day holiday), making it a flop of Lone Ranger-esque proportions. At least it cracked the top 10; Bieber's new concert film, Believe, opened at Number 14, with just an estimated $2.0 million from Friday to Sunday ($4.3 million since Wednesday). Since it cost a pittance to make (reportedly just $5 million), Believe should creep into the black eventually, but it's about a third of what experts predicted the movie would earn. Maybe Beiber's erratic behavior in recent months has turned fans off, or maybe they were sitting at home and mourning the 19-year-old's rumored retirement.
Also underperforming was Grudge Match. The Sylvester Stallone/Robert De Niro boxing comedy debuted at Number 11 with an estimated $7.3 million weekend ($13.4 million since it premiered on Christmas Day), about half what pundits had predicted. At this rate, the movie seems unlikely to stay in the ring long enough to recoup its reported $40 million budget.
THE TRIBE HAS SPOKEN: Three more Oscar hopefuls squeezed in under the wire, opening in a handful of theaters on the last week of the year in order to qualify for awards consideration. Of these, ensemble family drama August: Osage County grossed the highest (an estimated $179,500 on five screens, averaging $35,900 per screen), but the highest per-screen average of the week belonged to war drama Lone Survivor (an estimated $92,500 on two screens, averaging $46,250 per venue). The Invisible Woman, with Ralph Fiennes directing and starring as Charles Dickens, took an estimated $37,100 on three screens, averaging $12,367, still well above the average for any of the current wide-release movies.
Most already-playing Oscar hopefuls saw sizable boosts over last weekend's business. American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, Philomena, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Her, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, and All Is Lost all earned Christmas bonuses. The biggest boost of all went to Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which finally expanded from four screens to 975 and earned an estimated $2.4 million as a result. Not sure why the Weinstein Company waited until the movie was in its fifth week to take the film nationwide, but at least you can't accuse them of rushing to capitalize on Nelson Mandela's death way back on December 5th.