Box Office Top 10 Film Film News

Box Office: What to Make of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Opening Lower than An Unexpected Journey

To see our other box office top 10 breakdowns please go here.

So, here’s what happened this weekend at the domestic box office: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug opened lower than its predecessor, An Unexpected Journey, while Tyler Perry had one of his lowest openings of all time.  Let’s break it down:

Top 10 Estimated Domestic Totals for the 12/13-12/15 Box Office 

1. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (Opening Weekend)


  • Opening Weekend Gross=$73.6 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: $131.2 million this weekend for a combined worldwide total of $205 million.  Opened in 49 territories abroad this weekend, including eight of the top 12 markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K., Mexico, Brazil and Korea).

Over the weekend, it was becoming apparent that Desolation of Smaug was not going to replicated nor surpass the $84.6 million opening weekend of An Unexpected Journey.  It’s midnight screenings and Friday day gross were well off by the pace of Journey.  As a result, its final total of $73.6 million is about what was predicted, a 13% lower opening than Unexpected Journey.  This is still large enough to register as the fourth-biggest December opening ever, behind An Unexpected Journey ($84.6 million), I Am Legend ($77.2 million) and Avatar ($77 million). It even opened ahead of the last Lord of the Rings film, The Return of the King, which earned $72.6 million in its debut in December 2003.

Of course, that’s all before you adjust for ticket price inflation, which knocks the 3D Smaug down a couple of pegs.  At the average 2013 ticket price without any benefit from 3D or Imax The Desolation of Smaug would have only made $75 million.  If you adjust all other December openings for inflation, $75 million would be only good enough to be 7th best, behind Return of the King ($96.9 million), I Am Legend ($90 million), The Two Towers ($85 million), An Unexpected Journey ($84 million), The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe ($82 million), and Avatar ($81 million).  In fact, at 2013 ticket prices this would be the lowest opening for any Lord of the Rings/Hobbit film since The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001.

So, what gives?  Why did this happen?  And should we be disappointed?  Some of the audience erosion is likely due to the more mixed an audience reaction to An Unexpected Journey, which probably led some to not view Smaug as mandatory viewing.  However, the bigger culprit is bigger competition.  An Unexpected Journey was more able to dominate the box office when its competition was repeat weekend for Rise of the Guardians, Lincoln, Life of Pi, and a long-in-the-tooth Skyfall, all four combining for $25 million in collective gross.   Smaug has repeat weekends from colossal hits like Frozen, Catching Fire, and Thor: The Dark World as well as the opening weekend of a Tyler Perry Madea movie, all four combining for $53 million in collective gross.  Basically, Unexpected Journey did huge business when it was expected to do ginormous business.  As such, the other studios smelled blood in the water and were not quite as afraid to compete with another Hobbit movie this time around.  The result is merely a top 5 December opening/top 10 after inflation as opposed to the best of all time.

2. Frozen


  • Weekend Gross=$22.2 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$164.3 million
  • Budget=$150 million

Foreign: $31.5 million this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $101 million and combined worldwide total of $265.9 million.  It has now opened in over half of the potential foreign markets, but still has big markets like China, Brazil, and Japan left.

Walt Disney Animation Studios last used the lucrative Thanksgiving holiday weekend to release one of their classic princess movies in 2010 in the form of Tangled, which did big business for them to the tune of $200 million domestic/$591 million worldwide.  Two weekends ago, they did it again with Frozen, and watched it set a record for biggest Thanksgiving debut ever (better than Toy Story 2) and second biggest Thanksgiving 3-day/5-day weekend ever, behind only the concurrent performance of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  In its second weekend of wide release, Frozen dropped 53%, almost identical to Tangled‘s second-weekend drop of 55%.  Here in its third weekend, Frozen dropped 29% vs. Tangled’s 33%.  So, basically, these movies are performing identically.  The big difference is that Frozen opened bigger meaning it is on track to end with more money.  Frozen will end up being the third highest-grossing animated film of 2013, behind only Monsters University and Despicable Me 2.

3. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (Opening Weekend)
This image will haunt my dreams for weeks to come
  • Opening Weekend Gross=$16 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: No foreign release has been announced at the moment.

The last Madea film, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, opened in June of last year with $25.4 million on the way to a final domestic gross of $65.7 million, somewhat similar business to this year’s Best Man Holiday.  However, at this point the Tyler Perry brand is on the slight decline.  Of his 15 Tyler Perry’s films, four of the lowest opening weekends have come in the past two years – A Madea Christmas’ ($16 million), Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds ($15.5 million in 2012), Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls ($11.2 million in 2007), and Tyler Perry Presents Peebles ($4.6 million in 2013).  This is the first time that decline has been reflected in a strictly Madea film.

4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


  • Weekend Gross=$13.1 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$356.9 million
  • Budget=$130 million

Foreign: $19.5 million this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $372.9 million and combined worldwide total of $729.8 million.  Catching Fire is out in every major market except for Japan, which has to wait until 12/27

The first Hunger Games was a colossal hit in North America ($408 million), and a pretty big hit everywhere else ($283 million).  Catching Fire is spreading the glory more evenly, with $356 million domestically and $372 million internationally.  As a result, it’s worldwide total of $729 million is now better than the first Hunger Games‘ $691 million.  However, it dropped over around 50% this past weekend both domestically and internationally.  What does that mean?  It’s going to end having to settle for being the second biggest film of the year, behind Iron Man 3, as opposed to the biggest.

5. Thor: The Dark World


  • Weekend Gross=$2.3 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$198 million
  • Budget=$170 million

Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $421.8 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $619.9 million.  It’s out everywhere except for Japan, which has to wait until 2/1/14.

Thor: The Dark World has now hit a box office milestone in passing $600 million in worldwide gross, surpassing the total global box-office grosses for Marvel Studios films like Iron Man ($585 million), Thor ($449 million), Captain America ($371 million), and The Incredible Hulk ($263 million).  It will eventually surpass Iron Man 2 ($623 million) as well, making it the third biggest Marvel Studios film ever behind Iron Man 3 ($1.2 billion) and The Avengers ($1.5 billion).  It’s a tad disappointing that it will end up barely crossing $200 at the domestic market, but, then again, it’s going to end up making $200 million at the domestic market.  That’s dang good.  It’s enough for The Dark World to currently rank as the 8th highest worldwide grossing film of 2013, ahead of The Croods ($587 million) but behind Gravity ($642 million).

6. Out of the Furnace

Out of Furnace Bale Afflec

  • Weekend Gross=$2.3 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$9.4 million
  • Budget=$22 million

Foreign: Doesn’t make its non-film festival international debut until late January.

It opened soft, has now dropped nearly 56% in its second weekend, and is thus far not getting any awards recognition, thus negating any type of bump to be expected in that territory.  Their hope was to enjoy a Delivery Man-like stronger-than-expected second week hold to at least give them a chance of making back their production budget.  That didn’t happen, and a domestic total south of $20 million seems likely.

7. Delivery Man


  • Weekend Gross=$1.8 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$27.9 million
  • Budget=$26 million

Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not yet available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $1.2 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $29.1 million.  Major markets awaiting its release include Brazil and the UK.

Delivery Man has now surpassed its production budget, which is good.  However, after dropping over 45% in each of the last two weekends it is starting to wind down.  Thankfully, the risk for all involved was low due to the minimal budget.  It will look to turn a profit with its foreign sales, but that will be an uphill battle considering how poorly Vince Vaughn’s most recent films (other than The Internship) have performed outside of North America.

8. Philomena


  • Weekend Gross=$1.7 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$11 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: Came out a couple of weeks earlier overseas than it did in North America.  To date, it has combined foreign gross of $17.2 million for a worldwide total of $28.2 million.  It is still slowly expanding into additional foreign markets.

Philomena was just nominated this past week for Best Picture (Comedy), Actress (Judi Dench), and Screenplay by the Golden Globes.  The connection between the award shows and box office performance is increasingly tenuous, but look for the film’s distributor to continue touting their nominations in advertising to try to keep the film in theaters throughout Christmas.

9. The Book Thief


  • Weekend Gross=$1.67 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$14.8 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: It is not currently scheduled to roll out into international territories until January.

The Book Thief continues to stick around in theaters due to word-of-mouth.  However, despite the power of the Weinstein Company behind it The Book Thief is thus far getting shut out by most awards bodies.  With the onslaught of awards contenders around the corner, The Book Thief looks likely to get lost in the shuffle.

10. Homefront


  • Weekend Gross=$1.63 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$18.4 million
  • Budget=$22 million

Foreign: At the moment, there is no official estimate of its international performance, although it is likely no more than $2 million.

Although his is a recognizable name, the average Jason Statham movie ends up with a total domestic gross of $28 million.  That includes both Expendables films, which may not be fair since he’s but one member of a large ensemble in those.  So, we shouldn’t be surprised by the Sylvester Stallone written/produced Homefront doing middling business.  It has at least surpassed the final domestic total of Statham’s other notable 2013 film, Parker (17.6 million) with Jennifer Lopez.


What Happened Outside of the Top 10?

Who Fell Out of the Top 10?: The Best Man Holiday (#8 to #12) and Dallas Buyer’s Club (#10 to #11).  Both made over $1 million on the weekend, which represented a 65% drop for Best Man Holiday and 25% for Dallas.  Best Man Holiday has now grossed $68.9 million, and will end with a little more than $70 million before it completely leaves theaters.

Notable Performances from Films In Limited Release: Opening in six locations this week, Columbia Pictures’ American Hustle earned a stellar $690,000 for a per-location average of $115,000.

What’s Up Next?: It’s about to get very crowded.  Anchorman 2 opens wide on Wednesday (12/18) prior to an onslaught of new movies on Friday (12/20): Walking with Dinosaurs, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Jeez, enough with the numbers already.

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: