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Bilbo Bags Burgundy at Box Office as ‘Hobbit’ Surges Past ‘Anchorman 2’

”American Hustle“ takes off in expansion and a super hold by ”Frozen“ chills 3D kids film ”Walking With Dinosaurs“

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” breathed more fire at the holiday box office, repeating as No. 1 with $31.4 million and beating back a challenge from Will Ferrell and “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”

The comedy sequel, which arrived nine years after the original and stars Ferrell as TV newsman Ron Burgundy, brought in $26.7 million to finish second. The two movies were virtually tied after Friday, but a Saturday surge by Bilbo Baggins and the rest of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth mob made the difference.

Oscar hopeful “American Hustle,” director David O. Russell’s dark comedy set against the backdrop of the 1970s Abscam scandal, took off in its expansion. It brought in $19 million from 2,507 theaters, for Sony, one week after posting the year’s best limited opening on six theaters in New York and L.A.

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That strong showing put it right there with Disney Animation’s “Frozen,” which staked its claim as the family film of choice over the holidays. Its $19 million three-day total was down just 13 percent from last week’s, indicating very strong word of mouth. The tale of two sisters fighting the Snow Queen has now taken in $191 million in five weeks domestically, and $344 million worldwide.

The big hold by “Frozen” didn’t help the 3D kids movie “Walking With Dinosaurs,” the weekend’s other wide opener, which had a solid Saturday but wound up on the low end of expectations with $7.3 million and finished eighth.

“Saving Mr. Banks,” another expanding Oscar hopeful, finished fifth. Disney’s drama about the making of “Mary Poppins,” starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, brought in $9.3 million in its nationwide debut.

Warner Bros.’ “Desolation of Smaug” fell off 57 percent from its opening last week, the same percentage drop of last year’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which posted a $36.8 million second week. “Smaug,” which has faced tougher competition, has now taken in $127 million, compared to the $150 million that the first film in Jackson’s trilogy has after two weeks.

The five-day total for “Anchorman 2,” which took in $13.2 million on Wednesday and Thursday, is around $40 million. That’s the low-end figure distributor Paramount had projected, but is considerably under the $50 million predicted by some analysts, who may have been swayed by the massive marketing campaign mounted by the studio and front-man Ferrell in recent weeks.

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“To open at $40 million pre-Christmas is a very good start,” said Paramount’s distribution chief Don Harris on Sunday. “That’s about half of what the first film all told, so given the sort of multiple you see around the holidays, we’re very happy.”

“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” opened to $28.4 million in July of 1994 and went on to gross $85 million. Around the holidays, movies play more strongly past their opening as distracted moviegoers catch up, so a tally as high as $130 million is within range for the sequel.

It played as expected, with the audiences 62 percent male a 56 percent over the age of 25. They gave it a “B” CinemaScore, in line with its 76 percent positive Rotten Tomatoes score.

In this one, the San Diego news team led by Ferrell’s Burgundy relocates to New York. Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate and Kristen Wiig co-star in “Anchorman 2,” which was written by Ferrell and Adam McKay, who directs.

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From Gary Sanchez and Apatow Productions, “Anchorman 2″ was made for roughly $50 million. Judd Apatow, Ferrell and McKay produced, and David Householter, Kevin Messick and Jessica Elbaum executive produced.

The opening by “Mr. Banks” was under analysts’ pre-release projections, which has been in the low-teen millions. It played to very mature audiences – 80 percent was over 25 years of age – and 57 percent female.

Disney’s distribution chief Dave Hollis was a little disappointed in the opening number, but hardly discouraged.

“With this kind of quality movie, and an “A” CinemaScore, we have the opening we needed. With the target audience on this we know it’s going to be a slow burn, and now we have all those ambassadors out there telling people what a great film it is.”

He noted too that with the awards rush looming – Oscar nominations are Jan. 16 – the best days at the box office are yet to come for “Mr. Banks,” which should be in theaters into March.

Fox’s CGI-live-action hybrid kids film “Walking With Dinosaurs” struggled to find its footing. The PG-rated animated movie is based on the BBC TV series of the same name, and was in 3,200 theaters. It did see a significant 31 percent bump on Saturday, but the vast majority of its screens were 3D, and the premium charges for that may have deterred some families.

It’s an unusual film, like a nature documentary — only on 3D and special effects steroids, and narrated by a prehistoric bird (John Leguizamo), and cost roughly $80 million to produce.

Disney’s Marvel superhero sequel “Thor: The Dark World” finished tenth with $1.3 million and pushed its domestic haul past $200 million and its global total to $627 million after seven weeks.

The overall box office was up by around 35 percent from last year’s comparable week, and the 2013 box office is on pace to be the biggest ever domestically.

The Indian action film “Dhoom 3” recorded the best opening ever for a Bollywood movie, taking in $3.3 million from 236 theaters to break into the top ten at No. 9. The third film in the “Dhoom” series,” in Hindi with English sub-titles, shattered the first-weekend record of $2.2 million set by “Chennai Express” in August. Yash Raj Films distributed.