Box Office Top 10 Film Film News

Box Office: Hobbit Holds, Frozen Surges, 47 Ronin 2nd Biggest Bomb of 2013?

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 strategy to sneak out Anchorman 2, American Hustle, and Saving Mr. Banks prior to the actual Christmas weekend seemed to pay off as all three of these recent releases mostly outshined those movies which came out on Christmas.  In fact, among the new releases only The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Wolf of Wall Street did well.  47 Ronin and the Justin Bieber documentary both bombed hard whereas Grudge Match didn’t even make the top 10.  The real story was Frozen, which had one of the best sixth weekends of all time and dang near overtook Desolation of Smaug atop the chart.  Altogether, the weekend was strong enough to ensure that 2013 will be the top grossing year in the history of film, besting 2012’s record $10.8 billion. 

Top 10 Domestic Totals for the 12/25-12/29 Box Office 

1. The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug 


  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$29.8 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$49.5 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$190.3 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: $98.3 this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $423 million and worldwide total of $614 million.

Not bad.  However, this is still easily the weakest performing film in The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings since Fellowship of the Ring, especially once you adjust for ticket price inflation.  At this point, after 17 days Desolation of Smaug has a domestic total of $190.3 million.  How does that compare to prior films in The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings franchise:

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 17-Day Total=$221 million
  • LOTR: Return of the King 17-Day Total =$272 million ($353 million after adjusting for inflation)
  • LOTR: The Two Towers 17-Day Total =$243 million ($325 million after adjusting for inflation)
  • LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring 17-Day Total =$189 million ($262 million after adjusting for inflation)

On the bright side, Unexpected Journey fell 13% on this same weekend last year when it was facing competition from new releases like Django Unchained, Les Miserables, and Parental Guidance.  Desolation of Smaug only dropped an anemic 5% faced against a resurgent Frozen and carryover business for Anchorman 2, American Hustle, and Saving Mr. Banks.   It’s hard to tell if the difference in drops is an indication of superior word of mouth or inferior competition, though it’s likely both.  That all said, Desolation of Smaug is making up for it with big bucks overseas, having now already become the 9th highest worldwide grossing film of 2013.  It will soon pass Thor: The Dark World ($630 million), Gravity ($653 million), and Man of Steel ($662 million) on that list.

2. Frozen 


  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$28.8 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$44.2 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$248.3 million
  • Budget=$150 million

Foreign: $50.5 this weekend for a new total foreign gross of $243 million and worldwide total of $491 million.

This was the second best showing of all time for a film in its sixth weekend, trailing only Avatar ($34.9 million) but easily beating Titanic ($25.2 million).  To be fair, neither of those had the benefit of having their sixth weekend happen to fall on Christmas.  Plus, if you adjust for ticket price inflation both Avatar and Frozen can take their records and shove it since at the average 2013 ticket price Titanic‘s sixth weekend would have actually earned $43 million.  Still, the point remains that movies that are in their sixth weekend very rarely make this much money.  This was a 47% improvement on Frozen‘s total from last weekend, and it came dang close to dethroning Desolation of Smaug atop the chart.  You know – Walking With Dinosaurs was supposed to compete for the family market and not let something like this happen.  That…didn’t happen.  Frozen is now on pace to pass Monsters University ($268 million) to become the second highest domestic grossing animated film of the year, behind only Despicable Me 2 ($367 million).  It needs another $100 million in worldwide gross to pass The Croods as the third-highest worldwide grossing animated film of the year.

3. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues


  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$20.1 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$35.5 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$83.6 million
  • Budget=$50 million

Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $25.4 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $109 million.

In only 12 days, Anchorman 2 has almost already surpassed the domestic total of the first Anchorman, $85 million.  Except, of course, that movie out 9 years ago.  You know what happens next, right?  Uh-huh, we adjust for inflation to put this into context.  At the average 2013 ticket price, the first Anchorman‘s total domestic total goes up to $110.5 million, which keeping with 2013 ticket prices would have put its 12-day total at $78 million.  So, in actuality, Anchorman 2 is only performing slightly better than its predecessor.  That’s all domestic, though.  The real story is overseas where Anchorman was an astonishing non-entity in 2004, grossing a meager $5.2 million.  Anchorman 2 has left that far behind, grossing $25.4 million in foreign sales so far.

4. American Hustle 

American Hustle

  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$19.5 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$33.2 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$60 million
  • Budget=$40 million

Foreign: $1.9 million in extremely limited foreign release for a worldwide total of $61.9 million.

If American Hustle making $19 million on the weekend and finishing at #4 in the Top 10 looks familiar that’s probably because it’s exactly what happened last weekend as well.  Since that opening last weekend marked the biggest of director David O. Russell’s career, not surprisingly this second-weekend performance is also the best of his career.

5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Opening Weekend)


  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$18.5 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$34.3 million
  • Budget=$100 million

Foreign: Opened in 10 other countries, most notably France; no estimate as to its foreign gross yet.

It’s 3-hours long, technically 2 hours and 59 minutes.  It has so much sexual content it was “this close” to getting an NC-17 rating were it not for last minute cuts made by director Martin Scorsese and his longtime editor.  The advertising has hidden both of those aspects, leading to a C grade from CinemaScore indicating lots of people walked in having no idea how much challenging content the film presented.  Yet it came in as the highest debut of any Christmas release this year.  This is technically a better opening than Scorsese’s last film, Hugo, which made $11.3 million in November 2011.  However, it’s not really a fair comparison since Wall Street opened on 2,537 screens vs. Hugo‘s 1,277.  The most recent Scorsese/DiCaprio team-up proved to be a bigger hit in February of 2010 when Shutter Island opened with $41 million, but in terms of box office Christmas and February are two very different release windows.

As luck would have it, there are a couple of prior Scorsese/DiCaprio films which came out in December, The Aviator (2004) and Gangs of New York (2002).  The Aviator made $8.6 million its first weekend of wide release while Gangs of New York made $9 million, which adjust to $11 million and $13 million respectively at the average 2013 ticket price.

6. Saving Mr. Banks

Tom Hanks Walt Disney

  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$14 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$23.7 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$37.8 million
  • Budget=$35 million

Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $5.5 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $43.3 million. 

It was a tad surprising to some to see Saving Mr. Banks open with only $9 million last weekend.  However, the box office experts were uniform in arguing this was the type of family-friendly, older-skewering film that would actually improve over Christmas.  Well, that’s exactly what happened, as its business improved 50%, enough that it has now earned back its production budget.

7. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Opening Weekend)


  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$13 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$25.6 million
  • Budget=$90 million

Foreign: Beginning last week, it has now opened in around 39 countries outside North America, most notably China, the UK, and Brazil.  It has grossed a combined $27.2 from all of its foreign markets for a worldwide gross of $52.7 million.

Saving Mr. Banks and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty were running neck-and-neck all weekend as to which one would end making more.  The result is that the former had a slightly bigger weekend whereas the latter actually made a little more over the 5-Day Christmas period.   The big difference between the two, then, is budget.  They did nearly identical business over the holiday, but Saving Mr. Banks only cost $35 million to make whereas Walter Mitty cost $90 million.  As such, Walter Mitty‘s bar for success is much higher, and with it being almost completely ignored by awards bodies to this point it cannot count on any future bump in business due to nominations it can tout in advertising.  The good news is that it is playing about as strong overseas.

8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$10.2 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$15.7 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$391.1 million
  • Budget=$130 million

Foreign: Information about its performance this past weekend is not available, but prior to this weekend it had grossed a combined $393.6 million foreign which now adds up to a worldwide total of $784.7 million.

With this 16% weekend-to-weekend surge in business, Catching Fire has now re-positioned itself after several weeks of decline as possibly being on path to supplant Iron Man 3 as the top grossing domestic movie of 2013.  It only needs around $18-20 million more to do it.  It could happen.  Maybe.  It remains fourth in top worldwide grossing films of 2013, sure to soon pass Fast & Furious 6 ($788.7 million) but has no shot at passing Despicable Me 2 ($918.6 million) and Iron Man 3 ($1.2 billion).

9. 47 Ronin (Opening Weekend)


  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$9.8 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$20.5 million
  • Budget=$175-200 million

Foreign: Internationally, 47 Ronin has grossed $22.3 million from 29 territories, with more than half coming from Japan, Singapore and Malaysia.  This results in a worldwide gross of $42.8 million.

The writing has been on the wall for 47 Ronin for quite some time now.  The director (Carl Erik Rinsch, making his directorial debut) is unproven, the star (Keanu Reeves) a non-entity at the box office since 2008, and the rest of the cast mostly filled with Japanese actors beloved in their home country but little-known outside of it.  It started filming in early 2011, but has had its release date pushed back twice, first moving from last November to February of this year and then to Christmas Day of this year.  So, in a year full of failed (financially, at least) gambles (Jack the Giant Slayer, After Earth, White House Down, The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D.) it was hard to look at 47 Ronin with any sense of optimism.  Then it opened in Japan earlier this month and was but the latest big-budget Hollywood movie clearly designed for the Asian markets that surprisingly struggled to meet expectations in Japan.

Now, Universal has already jumped out in front of the story to perform PR damage control.  The Hollywood Reporter estimates 47 Ronin will lose $175 million, only earning enough in worldwide gross to cover its marketing costs.  This loss would rank it second to the $190 million lost by The Lone Ranger as the biggest box office bomb of 2013.  However, Universal is the same studio which claims to be experiencing their most profitable year ever thanks mostly to Despicable Me 2 and Fast & Furious 6.  This allowed them to easily weather the losses of R.I.P.D. over the summer.  They announced they’d already made plans to absorb the anticipated losses of 47 Ronin“Universal Pictures regularly evaluates its film slate for potential adjustment. In the case of 47 Ronin, we adjusted film costs in previous quarters, and as a result, our financial performance will not be negatively impacted this quarter by its theatrical performance.”

10. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas 
Some things once seen cannot be unseen
  • 3-Day Weekend Gross=$7.4 million
  • 5-Day Christmas Gross=$12.5 million
  • Total Gross to Date=$43.7 million
  • Budget=They’re Not Telling

Foreign: The only other countries to suffer from this mess have been South Africa and Kuwait.  There is no official estimate as to how much money it’s made over there.

Audiences have now been conditioned over the years to see movies over the Christmas holiday.  However, audiences do not necessarily like seeing actual Christmas-themed movies over the holidays.  Or at least they as of late do not turn out unless the movie is actually pretty good, like Elf in 2003.  So, A Madea Christmas is the only ostensible Christmas-movie to finish in the top 10, but this is still the lowest-grossing Madea movie in Tyler Perry’s career.  It may yet catch up to the $53 million domestic gross of 2011’s Madea’s Big Happy Family, which was the lowest-grossing Madea film prior A Madea Christmas.


What Happened Outside of the Top 10?

Who Fell Out of the Top 10?: Walking with Dinosaurs (#8 to #12), Thor: The Dark World (#10 to #16), Dhoom 3 (#9 to not on the chart at all).  Domestic audiences are just straight up ignoring Walking with Dinosaurs, which is doing better overseas but not good enough.  It has a $53 million worldwide gross on a production budget of $80 million.  On the other end, The Dark World now sits at $630 million in worldwide gross, 8th best among any 2013 release.

Embarrassing Debuts?: Grudge Match, aka, Rocky vs. Raging Bull didn’t hold much pull for holiday audiences.  It opened at #11 for the weekend with $7.3 million for a five-day debut of $13.4 million for a movie which cost $40 million to produce.  The Justin Bieber documentary Believe did even worse, finishing at #14 for the weekend with $2 million and only $4.2 million in its five-day debut.  The prior Justin Bieber documentary, Never Say Never, opened at $29.5 million.  Ouch.

What’s Up Next?: The only new wide opening will be a horror franchise spin-off, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (1/3).  

Jeez, enough with the numbers already.

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