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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.
Continuing a banner year for R-rated comedies, Paramount's prank flick Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa debuted at number one putting an end to the three-week reign of Gravity which neared the $200M mark in the process. Overall ticket sales saw a healthy gain compared to a year ago.
Grossing more than all the new releases combined, the space smash Gravity led the North American box office with ease for the third straight time collecting an estimated $31M. The Warner Bros. blockbuster displayed tremendous legs once again by slipping only 28% allowing the 17-day cume to soar to an eye-popping $170.6M. Only one 2013 film has grossed more in its third weekend - the year's top hit Iron Man 3 which did $35.8M. And The Butler was the only other film this year to spend three weeks at number one with its third frame winning only thanks to a holiday.
This weekend, Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller Gravity easily held on to the box office crown, Tom Hanks had his biggest opening in nearly five years, only one family film is playing in over 500 theaters, and those were the only films to make more than $4M this weekend.
Alfonso Cuarón's outer space survival thriller Gravity defied conventions both creatively and commercially and smashed the opening weekend record for October with a sensational $55.6M, according to estimates, to lead the North American box office accounting for half of all ticket sales in the top ten. The Warner Bros. release starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney took advantage of a perfect storm of sensational reviews, strong starpower, and awards buzz attracting a huge turnout which was especially impressive given that it was an original film with no built-in audience. It opened like a summer tentpole.
This weekend, Sony hit the top spot in North America with its new animated sequel Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 which grossed more than the frame's other three wide openers combined. The PG-rated 3D pic bowed to an estimated $35M from an ultrawide 4,001 theaters delivering a $8,748 average. Compared to the first Cloudy from this same month four years ago, the sequel's opening weekend gross was 16% higher but its average fell 10%. The original, also in 3D, was released in nearly 900 fewer locations bowing to $30.3M on its way to $124.9M, or four times its opening weekend.
North American audiences drove the well-reviewed kidnapping thriller Prisoners to the number one spot with a solid opening of $21.4M, according to estimates. The Warner Bros. release averaged a commendable $6,574 from 3,260 locations and marks the studio's fifth top spot debut of the year.
Fall moviegoers were in the mood to be scared as the horror sequel Insidious Chapter 2 dominated the North American box office with a spectacular opening that ranked among the best of all-time for its genre. FilmDistrict's follow-up to its 2011 sleeper hit thriller bowed to a stunning $41.1M, according to estimates, averaging a sensational $13,463 from 3,049 locations.
The slowest box office session of the year was ruled by action star Vin Diesel whose latest testosterone sequel Riddick topped the charts opening to an estimated $18.7M. Universal averaged a decent $6,010 from 3,107 locations and generated a debut that was not very muscular, but not lousy either. Considering the weak marketplace and the glut of action titles over the past couple of months, it was a respectable launch.
Moviegoers ended their summer by spreading dollars across a wide variety of films helping the North American box office deliver a record-breaking Labor Day holiday frame. An astonishing 26 different films grossed more than $1M over the Friday-to-Monday weekend with two of them making a legitimate claim to the number one spot. Traditionally, the holiday is judged by the four-day period which saw the popular White House drama The Butler spend its third consecutive term in the top position. However over the three-day Friday-to-Sunday period, the rapidly-eroding boy band doc One Direction: This Is Us was the leader. Regardless, the box office broke the old Labor Day weekend record set back in 2007 as the Top 20 grossed over $140M across four days.