‘The Hobbit’ Caps Holiday Blitz With 3rd Straight Box-Office Win

Peter Jackson’s franchise finale holds off “Into the Woods,” “Unbroken” and “Woman in Black 2” sequel with $22 million haul

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” put a cap on its holiday box-office blitz, bringing in $22 million to capture its third consecutive weekend triumph.

The final film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy held off a challenge from the wide-opening horror sequel “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” and second-week holdovers “Into the Woods” and “Unbroken” to stay at No. 1. “Battle of the Five Armies” has taken in $220 million domestically since opening on Dec. 17 and, with a worldwide haul of $722 million, is heading for $1 billion at the global box office.

Disney’s Broadway musical adaptation was runner-up with $19 million over the three days and Universal’s Angelina Jolie-directed biopic about Louis Zamperini was third with $18.4 million. Relativity Studio’s “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” opened to a better-than-expected $15.1 million to claim third, and Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” was fifth with$14.4 million.

“Battle of the Five Armies” has dominated this year’s holiday box office just as the previous two films in the franchise did, with all three winning three straight weekends. The New Line-MGM co-production is pacing ahead of the two earlier films, “An Unexpected Journey,” which totaled $303 million domestically in 2012, and last year’s “The Desolation of Smaug,” which hit $258 million in North America.

Why has “The Hobbit” been such a good fit for the holidays?

“‘I think it’s first and foremost a fun movie,” Jeffrey Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. “There’s serious brand equity in Middle Earth, and Peter Jackson tells a great story, and the way he tells it provides a great experience for his core fans and broad audiences.”

With Bilbo Baggins and company leading the way, the holiday box office continued to percolate and will end up about 12 percent ahead of last year’s New Year’s weekend. While dominant, the unique appeal of the J.R.R. Tolkein-inspired “Hobbit” has left room in the market for several holdovers to thrive.

Christmas Day openers “Unbroken,” “Out of the Woods” and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” have all taken in $90 million or close to it since their debuts. With moviegoers on vacation or out of school, those films all held well in their second weeks. “Unbroken” and “Into the Woods” fell just 40 percent from their first weekends and the “Night at the Museum” sequel was down just 27 percent.

Sony’s musical “Annie” also received a holiday boost. It was off just 28 percent and finished sixth with nearly $12 million over the three days, raising its domestic total to $73 million after three weeks.

The opening for “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” is under the $20.9 million that the first “Woman in Black” film debuted with on Super Bowl Sunday in 2012, but the solid first weekend assures that it will be a financial win for Relativity. The studio acquired the sequel, which features newcomer Jeremy Irvine stepping in for the CBS Films original’s Daniel Radcliffe as star, for $1 million earlier this year.

“This is a great way to start the year,” Kyle Davies, Relativity’s president of worldwide distribution, told TheWrap. “Holiday movies tend to skew toward families, and I think horror fans were ready to turn out.”

The last horror film in the marketplace was “Ouija,” which came out in October. There won’t be another until Feb. 27, when Relativity opens “The Lazarus Effect,” so “Angel of Death” could have a stronger shelf life than scary movies typically manage.

The audience was mainly young women, 53 percent female and 65 percent under the age of 25. African-Americans and Hispanics made up 25 and 24 percent of the crowd respectively. “The Angel of Death received a so-so “C” CinemaScore, but that’s in line with most horror films.

The Weinstein Company’s awards hopeful “The Imitation Game” continued to impress. It finished seventh with $7.7 million in its sixth week and did that playing in just 754 theaters. Its $10,855 per-screen average was the best of any film in wide release and upped the domestic haul for the historical drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch to $30.8 million.

Lionsgate’s long-playing “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” was next with $7.7 million. The Jennifer Lawrence sci-fi blockbuster is up to $323 million in North America and is bearing down on $700 million globally in its seventh week.

The Mark Wahlberg crime drama “The Gambler” was ninth with $6.3 million in its second weekend, upping its domestic total to $27.5 million for Paramount.

Disney’s “Big Hero Six” beat Reese Witherspoon’s “Wild” for tenth. The Disney Animation kids film took in $4.8 million to raise its domestic total to $211 million after nine weeks in release.