Box Office: Anchorman Sequel Can’t Dethrone The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

By Odin’s raven and Brick’s trident, Tolkien enthusiasts played their part in not letting Anchorman enthusiasts pass. Or that may have been just Gandalf waving his stick around. With a strong cult following and required viewing among college fraternities, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy became an after market success on home video. The sequel, which arrives nearly a decade after star Will Ferrell went on to do Talledega Nights and Step Brothers among others, had a massive marketing campaign with the faux newsman shilling Dodge trucks and appearing on numerous local television newscasts reporting the news. But Ron Burgundy and his Channel 4 news team was singed by a dragon named Smaug as the Hobbit‘s sequel/continuation/excuse to make more money withstood a 57.3% decrease in attendance but still took the weekend with estimated earnings of $31.5 million. The total moves the film past $100 million domestic, with a running total of $127.5 million (worldwide it is $240.1 million and climbing). While a large number, the previous Hobbit release was already over $150 million. Internationally, the film will have to play to strong numbers if it is to meet or exceed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘s billion-dollar earnings. Frankly, I’m betting it makes Fast & Furious 6 worldwide numbers (which is around $788 million).

What is an almost certainty is that this will be the last time The Hobbit sequel will be #1 at the box office. The forthcoming Christmas releases of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will ensure that. It’ll still have strong double-digit numbers, but look for audiences to gravitate to Wall Street‘s audaciousness or Walter Mitty‘s adventure of self-discovery.

If you read Scott Sawitz’s take on Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, then you know the sequel lacks the original’s quotability and being plain goofy to trying to make a point about the advancement to today’s state of news with laughs (if you can find them) to boot. It’s a story we’ve already gotten in some form with films like Morning Glory and, to a lesser degree, The Ugly Truth. The good news is that this sequel isn’t nearly as insulting as The Hangover Part III. It’s two hours long with more miss-than-hit jokes and is totally unfocussed. The saving grace may be Steve Carell’s Brick character, since we’re never quite sure what he’s going to do or say at any given moment.

What’s interesting to note is that Paramount was hesitant to greenlight a sequel for the longest time because of a return in investment. Opening on a Wednesday helped Anchorman 2‘s earnings overall, but it’s three-day total for Friday through Sunday was $26.8 million. That’s a little less than $2 million of what Anchorman made back in 2004. Unless it catches fire the same way We’re the Millers did over the summer, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay may have to resort to Kickstarter to drum up interest in another legendary tale involving Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 news team.

Frozen slips a little on the list but still makes $19.2 million for the weekend as it nears a domestic mark of $200 million. After his experiences with Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees, writer-director David O. Russell seems to have found his groove with his last three films. His latest release, American Hustle marks the director’s highest grossing wide release weekend with $19.1 million (previous titles The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook had openings of $12.1 million and $10.8 million respectively).

Disney’s other release in the top 10, Saving Mr. Banks, saw expansion from 5 to 2,110 theaters and placed fifth overall with $9.3 million. Still a pop culture touchstone and box office relevant, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire finished the weekend in sixth place with $8.8 million. Overall it has grossed $765 million worldwide. That puts it fourth worldwide for 2013’s calendar year, and second overall domestically for the year, supplanting Despicable Me 2.

As the only major holiday-themed Christmas movie with a wide release, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas seems like a lump of coal as it drops four spots to seventh place with $8.5 million. Another misfire is Fox’s Walking with Dinosaurs, which they promoted as a sort of Avatar meets Land Before Time mash-up in terms of visuals and subject matter. The 3D release failed to find much family appeal only making $7.3 million from 3,231 theaters.

The biggest surprise is the performance of the Hindi release Dhoom 3. Opening in the ninth spot, the third installment in the action series opened in 236 theaters and broke records with $3.3 million. It is the highest Bollywood opening ever in North America, surpassing previous record holder Chennai Express by more than $1 million. Bookending Brick’s trident was Thor’s hammer. Thor: The Dark World added another $1.3 million to bring its running total to $200.8 million.

Weekend of December 20 – 22, 2013

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Warner Bros.) – $31,455,000 ($127,500,000)

2. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount) – $26,766,000 ($40,000,000)

3. Frozen (Buena Vista) – $19,163,000 ($191,555,000)

4. American Hustle (Sony) – $19,100,000 ($20,200,000)

5. Saving Mr. Banks (Buena Vista) – $9,321,000 ($9,947,000)

6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (LionsGate) – $8,750,000 ($371,700,000)

7. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (LionsGate) – $8,500,000 ($28,300,000)

8. Walking With Dinosaurs (Fox) – $7,300,000

9. Dhoom 3 (Yash) – $3,305,000

10. Thor: The Dark World (Buena Vista) – $1,328,000 ($200,766,000)

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