Smaug Box Office Hot, But Dwarfed By Original Hobbit
By John Hamann
December 15, 2013
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is no The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as the Peter Jackson sequel couldn’t match the $85 million December record open the original Hobbit earned a year ago. It’s still huge, though.
The writing was on the wall for the second Hobbit right from the outset on Thursday night, when The Desolation of Smaug failed to match the original’s Thursday night results. The previews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey took in $13 million, whereas Smaug could only find $8.8 million, leaving a $4.2 million gap right at the beginning. I don’t know about you, but if I went to a screening of An Unexpected Journey at midnight last year, and listened to drunken dwarves sing for the first hour, I wouldn’t have come out to the next midnight screening. One would have to be a fairly rabid fanboy to come out to a midnight screening for a film that clocks in at two hours, 41 minutes. In my mind, this explanation gives us the reason for the difference in midnight screening between the two films.
The Friday take would be a mix of those lower light midnight screenings and the full Friday. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey added $24.1 million to its midnight previews for a Friday gross of $37.1 million, the biggest single December day in box office history. The Desolation of Smaug had a huge hill to climb on Friday to catch An Unexpected Journey following the reduction from Thursday. While it didn’t match the original, the outcome was quite interesting. The Friday number for Smaug came in at $31.1 million, so after $8.8 million in midnight screenings are removed, the “true Friday” number for Smaug becomes $22.3 million, or about $1.8 million less than the original. So, while the immediate rush wasn’t there like the original, a similar number of moviegoers came out on Friday for the sequel. With this rebalancing, it’s good news for Warner Bros., New Line and MGM, as had the slippage from the midnight screenings lasted all weekend, The Desolation of Smaug could have finished the weekend with about $60 million.
The next step for Desolation of Smaug was to keep the battle going strong all weekend. It needed to approach the Saturday take of the original ($27.7 million) in order to keep the weekend multiplier up, and demonstrate legs beyond opening night. It’s another wild weather weekend in the United States, so The Hobbit sequel (and the box office in general) had another uphill climb similar to last weekend. The Saturday figure for The Desolation of Smaug came in at $24.5 million, off 12% from Unexpected Journey’s $27.7 million. Again, this is a completely respectable Saturday figure, and should be considered good news, not bad. When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened, the rest of Hollywood hid their treasures away, and the second place film that weekend earned only $7.1 million. This year, there are three films earning twice that amount, and those titles take away the big theaters that Journey would have dominated last year.