The Hobbit and Five Armies Barely Bail Out Box Office
By John Hamann
December 21, 2014
It’s the weekend before Christmas and the best thing I can say is that the weekend should have been huge. Instead we get Exodus in freefall and a batch of new releases – all with better performing predecessors.
The big new weekend release is The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which was released on Wednesday. This marked the first time a Hobbit or Lord of the Rings film opened mid-week since Return of the King opened to $124.1 million over five days in 2003. Openers on Friday included Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Annie. The original Night at the Museum opened on December 22, 2006, debuting to $30.4 million; however, its first Sunday was Christmas Eve, traditionally one of the slowest moviegoing days all year. Annie is a little harder to point to a predecessor. The original debuted way back in 1982; when it went wide (albeit at only 1,102 venues), it earned $5.3 million in 1982 dollars, or about $15 million in 2014 dollars. If its $13,300 venue average is divided by two and applied to the 3,116 screens this version of Annie received, the debut would have been $20.7 million. Let’s keep all of these numbers in mind as we look at the weekend results.
Finishing number one this weekend is The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, as Peter Jackson’s third film in the second middle earth trilogy debuted strongly this weekend. The Battle of the Five Armies opened on Tuesday with a preview tally of $11.2 million and a combined Tuesday/Wednesday of $24.5 million. Sounds like a good start, right?
While the previous Hobbit films were Friday openers, all of the Lord of the Rings titles opened on Wednesday, and Five Armies posted the second worst Tuesday/Wednesday of the series, beating only the first Lord of the Rings flick, The Fellowship of the Ring, which earned $18.2 million on opening day (inflation puts Five Armies into the basement spot, but I won’t go there). The Thursday number came in at $9.95 million, again, the lowest since The Fellowship of the Ring earned $9.7 million. The Battle of the Five Armies earned $34.4 million before the weekend proper had begun.
The Friday figure came in at $16.6 million, again losing to all Middle Earth flicks except Fellowship of the Ring ($14.2 million). It was $20 million behind The Hobbit ($37.1 million) and $15 million behind Desolation of Smaug ($31.2 million); however, both of those films were Friday openers with Thursday previews. Battle of the Five Armies finished the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend with $56.2 million, and a five day total of $90.6 million. While that is the lowest three day take since Fellowship of the Ring ($47.2 million), the five-day take beats the first three days of both The Hobbit ($84.6 million) and Smaug ($73.6 million).
So while there is good news for Warner Bros. and New Line, this is not a "singing and dancing dwarves" sort of result. Return of the King, the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, popped versus Two Towers, earning $124.1 million over five days. The Two Towers earned $102 million, meaning that Return of the King increased over it by 20%. With the change in release strategy for the third film to a Wednesday release, the studio is able to avoid these comparisons that show The Hobbit series to be a shrinking daisy.