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The top ten was littered with new faces as smaller films performed better than larger ones. The street racing actioner Need For Speed and Tyler Perry's comedy The Single Moms Club both underperformed while indie pics The Grand Budapest Hotel and Veronica Mars jumped onto the list with the best averages. Overall, the domestic marketplace performed at normal levels for mid-March but it was a cartoon holdover that seized control of the number one spot.
Exactly seven years after the record-breaking opening of the blockbuster Spartan battle pic, the historical action sequel 300: Rise of an Empire conquered the global box office with international growth helping to make up for understandable domestic shrinkage. The brutal R-rated war epic debuted to an estimated $45.1M in North America capturing the top spot with ease driven by a carnage-loving male fan base. Warner Bros. averaged a strong $12,983 from 3,470 locations including 343 IMAX screens (up from only 62 on the first film) which did tremendously well.
Liam Neeson conquered the North American box office with his latest action thriller Non-Stop which exceeded expectations debuting at number one with an estimated $30M. Universal's third top spot debut of the year averaged a muscular $9,715 from 3,090 locations and reinforced the 61-year-old actor's reputation as one of the most bankable and reliable box office draws around. Over the past five years, Neeson has had six action movies open at number one. That's more than Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, and Will Smith - combined!
This weekend, two new Hollywood action offerings were met by yawns from ticket buyers who instead showed up again for the hit animated film The LEGO Movie which became the first toon in nearly four years to spend three consecutive weeks at number one.
Four new releases and a rock solid holdover cartoon brought out large crowds to North American theaters over the Presidents Day frame which should end up with the best performance for the holiday session in four years. Leading the chart for the second weekend in a row was the animated hit The LEGO Movie with an estimated $48.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday span dropping a low 29% from its record opening.
Moviegoers rushed out to see the buzzworthy animated comedy The Lego Movie which posted a record opening for an animated film during the winter months of December-January-February. The Warner Bros. release grossed an estimated $69.1M from 3,775 theaters for a sensational $18,307 average.
Moviegoing took a backseat to football as the North American box office slumped to its worst performance in over four months with the hit comedy Ride Along ruling the chart for a third week in a row. The animated smash Frozen enjoyed an uptick in business, thanks in part to a new sing-along version, and rose to second place. The weekend's new releases failed to generate much business and most holdovers averaged below $3,000 as the marketplace struggled to attract audiences.
It was a sluggish session at the North American box office as Hollywood offered just one new movie which was rejected by audiences allowing the top five to be filled by the same faces as last week. The action-horror thriller I, Frankenstein flopped while the hit buddy comedy Ride Along once again took first place for a second weekend in a row with a reasonably good hold. Moviegoers did spend some time sampling the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture as eight of the nine contenders found themselves in the Top 20.
Kevin Hart and Ice Cube delivered the laughs with their new comedy Ride Along and if estimates hold, it will break the record for the biggest Martin Luther King holiday opening ever. The Universal hit grossed an estimated $41.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the long frame and the studio is projecting about $47.8M over the four-day period. That would break the old records of $40.1M and $46.1M set in 2008 by Cloverfield. In fact, it would also break the record for the biggest debut in all of January which the low-budget sci-fi pic also has held.
This weekend, U.S. audiences surprised industry observers by flooding multiplexes in larger numbers than expected to see Mark Wahlberg's new Navy SEAL thriller Lone Survivor, which expanded nationwide and captured the number one spot with a sensational performance. Three other films that debuted in limited release in December tried their luck with mainstream audiences as well by expanding into wide play, but they were met with varying results with more offbeat pictures delivering dull results. The frame's only brand new wide release, the adventure epic The Legend of Hercules, opened in fifth place with lackluster results.
As many parts of the country were freezing over, the box office was busy being conquered by Frozen as the Disney megahit reclaimed the number one spot in its sixth frame of wide play and came within striking distance of the triple century mark. Only one new film opened with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones scaring up a respectable second place showing.
On the final frame of 2013, studios shoved six new wide releases into the marketplace but holiday moviegoers chose holdovers instead as The Hobbit stayed at number one while the month-old animated smash Frozen enjoyed a Christmas surge finishing close behind in second. Of the new faces, only one - The Wolf of Wall Street - posted impressive results with the rest attracting sales that ranged from mediocre to disastrous.
Plenty of new faces popped up in the North American top ten but the Middle Earth tentpole The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug remained at number one with an estimated $31.5M falling a reasonable 57% in its second round. After ten-plus days, the Warner Bros. release has amassed $127.5M which is off 15% from the $150.1M that last year's An Unexpected Journey grossed over the exact same period. That film dropped by a similar 56% in its second weekend. Hobbit collected a massive $96M overseas this weekend pushing the international haul to $276.3M and the global gross to a potent $403.8M with much more to come over the holiday weeks ahead.
This weekend, audiences powered the latest Middle Earth saga The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug into the number one spot, but fewer of them took the journey this time. The Warner Bros. release opened to an estimated $73.7M which was about $11M less than the $84.6M debut for the first chapter An Unexpected Journey from this same week a year ago.
Thanksgiving's most popular leftovers topped the charts with a twist as the Disney animated smash Frozen climbed from second place into the number one spot with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire settling for the runner-up spot this time. The weekend after the busy turkey frame always sees significant belt-tightening and the box office predictably dropped 55% from a week ago. But powered by the awesome twosome, ticket sales were substantially higher than last year and 2011.
Two dishes cannibalized the long Thanksgiving holiday box office as tentpole holdover The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and the new animated blockbuster Frozen dominated the attention and wallets of audiences selling a jaw-dropping $200M+ worth of tickets over the five-day Wednesday-to-Sunday period. They generated the two largest grosses ever seen for this holiday frame and accounted for two-thirds of all spending on all films this long weekend. Other new releases found it very hard to breathe and were left with scraps.
Eliminating its foes and setting records in the process, the hotly-anticipated tentpole The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened to staggering results atop the box office with explosive grosses worldwide. In North America, the Katniss sequel debuted to an estimated $161.1M making it the second largest debut of the year and the fourth biggest of all-time. The only stronger films all benefited from 3D ticket prices -- The Avengers with $207.4M, this year's Iron Man 3 with $174.1M, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 with $169.2M.
The mighty super hero sequel Thor: The Dark World ruled the box office for a second time while the comedy sequel The Best Man Holiday debuted to sensational results in second place while playing in about half as many theaters. With only one new wide release entering the marketplace, most holdovers enjoyed low declines during the calm before the Katniss storm.
This weekend, making more money than all other films combined, the super hero sequel Thor: The Dark World descended upon the box office and crushed all rivals delivering the fourth biggest opening weekend of the year. Distributed by Disney, the Marvel tentpole bowed to an estimated $86.1M from 3,841 locations for a muscular $22,418 average including higher-priced tickets from 3D and IMAX screens.
Debuting to an estimated $28M, the effects-driven futuristic action pic Ender's Game landed in the number one spot with a performance that was reasonably good, but not especially impressive for an expensive production. Based on the best-selling novel, the PG-13 film averaged $8,218 from 3,407 locations including higher-priced IMAX and other large-format screens. Reviews were mixed for the Lionsgate release and the CinemaScore grade was a middling B+. Tapping into a built-in audience, not having any standout buzz, and facing the arrival of Thor: The Dark World next weekend, Game is not likely to last very long and should finish up with a front-loaded theatrical run.