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‘American Hustle’ Surges but No. 1 Too Close to Call at Box Office

“Hobbit” and “Frozen” vie for the top spot as busy weekend drives 2013 into the record books

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “Frozen” were neck-and-neck for No. 1 Saturday, as the year’s busy final weekend had the box office on a record-breaking pace.

“Smaug” and Disney 3D animated hit kept their leads Friday and were heading for three-day totals of around $30 million. With “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” bunched and likely to wind up near $20 million, the overall box office was running roughly 20 percent ahead of last year’s final week. That means it’s a virtual lock to push the year past 2012’s $10.84 billion domestic total.

“Frozen” ran just ahead of the Tolkien tale Friday, taking in $10.2 million from 3,335 theaters, while “The Hobbit” brought in $10.1 million from a market-high 3,928 screens, most of which are 3D.

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It would be quite an achievement if “Frozen” can pull out the win, since it’s in its sixth week of release. It has already brought in $230 million in the U.S. and is approaching $400 million worldwide.

“Smaug,” the second entry in Peter Jackson’s trilogy has now taken in more than $500 million worldwide for Warner Bros. and MGM and more than $170 million domestically since rolling out on Dec. 13. It’s still showing major momentum — it’s Friday total was 16 percent higher than last Friday’s.

The Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman 2” was a solid third with $7.1 million from 3,507 locations, and has pushed its domestic total over $70 million since last week for Paramount. The original took in $85 million total back in 1994.

Meanwhile, David O. Russell’s quirky comedy “American Hustle” surged past “The Wolf of Wall Street” and into fourth with $6.4 million from 2,507 theaters Friday.

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That’s on par with last Friday’s wide opening and means that Sony’s Oscar hopeful starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence is on pace to top its $19 million first weekend of wide release. The domestic total for the comedy from Annapurna and Columbia Pictures was up to $46.7 million Saturday.

Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf” was just behind it, with $6.2 million from 2,537 locations. Friday’s take was a little off from Thursday’s number, but the R-rated black comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio is still on track to take in more than $35 million over the long weekend for Paramount.

Disney’s Tom Hanks-Emma Thompson drama “Saving Mr. Banks” was fifth after bringing in $4.7 Friday. That translates to a $15 million second weekend for the awards hopeful, which has upped its domestic total to $28.5 million.

Another of the Christmas Day openers, Fox’s “Secret Life of Mitty” added $4.5 million from 2,909 theaters Friday and is looking at around $13 million for the three days and $25 million for the five.

The news wasn’t as good for “47 Ronin,” which brought in $3.4 million Friday and is looking at around $10 million for the three days and around $20 million for the five days. That’s a little better than expected but Universal will be taking a major writedown on the $175 million samurai action epic starring Keanu Reeves.

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Two other Christmas openers were bombing.

Warner Bros.’ Sylvester Stallone-Robert DeNiro boxing comedy “Grudge Match” was headed for a dismal $7 million weekend and won’t make the top ten after taking in $2.4 million from 2,838 theaters Friday. It’s five-day total looks to be around $13 million.

Justin Bieber’s “Believe” managed just $778,000 from 1,037 screens Friday for Open Road. That means the pop star’s concert film will barely crack $2 million for the weekend.

The Weinstein Company opened the Meryl Streep-Julie Robert dysfunctional family comedy “August: Osage County” in five theaters and it brought in $57,253, for a solid per-screen average of $11.451.

TWC also expanded “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” from four screens to 975 and it $800,000 for a very soft $821 per-screen average.

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Two Lionsgate movies, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Tyler Perry’s a Madea Christmas,” rounded out the top ten.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is still going strong. It’s $3.4 million Friday total was up an impressive 36 percent from last Friday and the Jennifer Lawrence sequel is on pace for a $10 million sixth week. It should hit $400 million domestically by next week and will cross $800 million worldwide this weekend or soon after.

The first “Hunger Games” finished with $408 million domestically and $791 worldwide last year.

Perry’s comedy is looking at a $7 million second weekend, which will put its domestic total near $40 million.