Will ‘The Interview’ Mess Hurt Box Office? ‘Hobbit’s’ $24.5 Million First Day Says It Could

Opening day for Peter Jackson’s franchise finale is under that of last two movies in series, but they opened on Friday

Last Updated: December 18, 2014 @ 6:22 PM

We’ll see if “The Interview” mess hurts the box office this weekend, but the first-day numbers posted by “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” suggest it could be.

The finale in Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy rung up $24.5 million in its opening, on the same day that Sony scrapped the Christmas Day release of the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy in the wake of terror threats from hackers. That figure includes $11.2 million from early shows on Tuesday night for the fantasy epic from New Line and MGM.

The opening day haul for “Five Armies” is below the $31.1 million that “The Desolation of Smaug” opened to  last year and way behind that of “An Unexpected Journey,” which had a $37.1 million first day in 2012. But both of those opened on a Friday, a much better day for moviegoing, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

“Five Armies” is expected to dominate this weekend and take in somewhere near $75 million over the five days. but that projection was made before the Sony situation exploded. There are two other movies opening wide Friday, Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” and Sony’s musical “Annie.” And Fox Searchlight is expanding the Reese Witherspoon drama “Wild, as well.

With even President Obama urging people to “go to the movies” as he addressed the Sony hacker threat Wednesday, there will be plenty of attention on this weekend box office numbers. But it’s not just safety concerns that will be affecting business at the multiplexes.

The domestic box office is off more than five percent from last year and been sputtering since November, so if it is a down weekend, don’t pin it all on the Sony fiasco. To be a strong weekend it will have to reverse weeks of negative momentum, and that was going to be tough before “The Interview” mess.

“I really don’t it think ‘The Interview’ will have a big impact,” Exhibitor Relations vice-president and senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap. ”Sony moved quickly to pull it after the terror threats and they did what they had to do to save the holiday box office. They have a horse in the race with ‘Annie,’ too.

“With the president saying to the movies and Homeland Security saying no credible threat, it should be OK. And some people are angry that ‘the terrorists won,’ so they may go to the movies to make a point.”