Weekend Wrap-Up

Holdovers strong; Christmas releases' geese are cooked

By David Mumpower

December 29, 2013

Does this look as fake as I think it does?

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The December holiday season is always the most wonderful time of the year in Hollywood. More movies are released during this period than at any other point on the yearly calendar. Ordinarily, older titles cede to the shinier new films with impeccable pedigrees. What has happened this week, however, has been anything but ordinary.

Almost all of the Christmas releases struggled, while a pair of long in the tooth blockbusters somehow sustained supremacy. In the end, The Hobbit with the dragon outlasted the Snow Queen. Everything else suffered a threadbare Christmas, especially Justin Bieber and a gaggle of Ronin.

Yes, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug maintained its Christmas momentum just enough to claim first place over the Friday-Sunday portion of the week. Its total of $29.9 million represents a minuscule 5% decline from last weekend’s $31.2 million. The latest Peter Jackson epic has earned $190.3 million domestically after 17 days in release. It is running far behind The Hobbit’s pace, as the fourth Lord of the Rings release had grossed $221.6 million during the same timeframe. With $276 million in the bank overseas, The Hobbit 2 has already grossed $466 million worldwide, although this is expected since the franchise has always sold extremely well abroad.

As unexpected as first place may be, second place is an absolute shocker, at least if you haven’t been paying any attention to box office this week. Frozen, one of the two dominant titles of Thanksgiving week, is now cemented as one of the two dominant titles of Christmas week as well. After grossing a solid $19.6 million during its fourth weekend in wide release last frame, Frozen increased $9.2 million or 47% to $28.9 million over its fifth weekend in theaters. Suffice to say that this is a rare bordering on unprecedented showing of staying power for a Thanksgiving title.


Ordinarily, the most popular movies from the November holiday have lost too many of their screens to be such a factor during Christmas. To wit, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire won Thanksgiving weekend by almost $7 million. Over the past seven days, Frozen beat Catching Fire by $37 million. And Catching Fire is demonstrating solid legs.

Frozen is playing like an old school release. After debuting to $67.4 million over its first weekend in wide release (and excluding $26.5 million in prior earnings), Frozen already claims a final box office multiplier (final domestic take divided by opening weekend total) of 3.3. And it has another week of holiday-inflated revenue upcoming. With $248.4 million in the bank, Frozen should surpass Gravity’s $254.6 million as soon as Tuesday. In the process, it will become the most successful non-sequel of 2013. There are even greater possibilities in play depending upon whether it continues its current trajectory as the post-Christmas choice of the people.

What is especially great about Frozen’s revenue is that since it is in the fifth week of wide release, exhibitors are receiving roughly half the profits from its astounding performance. They are incentivized to keep it in theaters for the foreseeable future, which should magnify its holdover appeal. In other words, Frozen may be a factor at the top of the charts for another couple of weeks.

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