Unbroken, Into the Woods, Hobbit Light Up Christmas
By John Hamann
December 28, 2014
Hail the holidays, as the Christmas box office lottery is paying off big time this year.
After a Christmas Day where both Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and the Disney musical Into the Woods broke the $15 million barrier, the box office kept up its torrid pace throughout the weekend. Films for kids that were lower on Christmas Day, like Annie and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, rose from their Christmas Day grosses of $4.6 million and $7.4 million respectively, giving solid results over the weekend proper. The Hobbit holdover also ticked up from Christmas Day, and smaller films like The Gambler, The Imitation Game, The Interview, and Big Eyes continued to roll. Finally, limited releases American Sniper and Selma secured riveting venue averages from small amounts of venues. With a plethora of good choices for moviegoers, exhibitors saw good crowds almost everywhere (sorry Exodus) this weekend.
Three films led the charge this weekend - Unbroken, Into the Woods and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The penultimate Hobbit sequel was the eventual winner of the weekend, but all three films performed above expectations. On Friday, The Battle of the Five Armies earned $15.7 million, reclaiming the top spot from Into the Woods and Unbroken, who were the victors on Christmas Day. The Hobbit Part 3 was up almost 20% on Friday from its $13.1 million Christmas Day, setting the stage for a repeat win at the top of the box office. Over the three-day frame between December 26th and 29th, the final Hobbit film reaped $41.4 million, down only 24% from its debut last weekend when it earned $54.7 million.
Over its first 12 days, and removing its $6 million Christmas Eve score, the lowest daily total for The Battle of the Five Armies came on Tuesday, December 22nd when it earned a very solid $9 million. The Return of the King, the final Lord of the Rings release also opened on December 17th, giving it the same Christmas calendar configuration as that of the Five Armies. Return of the King earned $50.6 million over the same weekend in 2003, so Five Armies is closing the gap after trailing Return of the King’s $72.6 million opening weekend. After 12 days of release, The Battle of the Five Armies has picked up $168.5 million domestically, crossing the $100 million mark on its seventh day of its release. It will break the $200 million barrier next week. Overseas, it cleared the $320 million mark by Saturday, and now has a worldwide cume approaching the half-billion mark. For The Hobbit series, the worldwide total will cross the $2.5 billion mark before the start of next weekend.
The extremely strong Unbroken and Into the Woods finished the weekend in a virtual tie - with Unbroken just barely securing a victory with estimates (this result may change when actuals are reported). Angelina Jolie's directorial effort earned $12.3 million on Friday, which followed a remarkable $15.6 million opening day on the 25th. Unbroken was able to turn that $12.3 million Friday into a weekend score of $31.7 million, which was again a stronger-than-expected score from the script by the Coen Brothers. With no big headlining name (other than Jolie’s), Unbroken depended on the slick advertising campaign from Universal, which seems to have paid off.