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This was the best movie at the box office this Christmas!

2014-12-29 10:48

Los Angeles — Audiences had their pick of genres over the Christmas weekend, but despite a host of fresh arrivals, splashy holiday fare like Unbroken and Into the Woods proved no match for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

The final installment in Peter Jackson's trilogy marched to the top spot once again with an estimated $41.4m take across the weekend ($54.5 including Christmas day earnings), according to studio estimates Sunday.

Universal's World War II epic Unbroken, took second place with $31.7m from the weekend, bringing its domestic total to $47.3m from its first four days in theatres.

"We're all thrilled," Nikki Rocco, Universal's president of domestic distribution said of the Angelina Jolie-directed drama. "It's a testament to how great this movie is. I'm so happy that America found out about it."

Added Rentrak's senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian: "The story of Louis Zamperini really offered a nice alternative for moviegoers who weren't looking for a fantasy world, a musical or a family film."

Disney's musical Into the Woods, boasting a star-packed cast and a PG rating, came in a close third with $31m, and $46.1m across the four days. It replaced Mamma Mia as the biggest opening for a screen adaptation of a Broadway musical ever.

"To be able to take Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's work and make it available to a mass audience? It's a great holiday gift in and of itself," said Disney's distribution Executive Vice President Dave Hollis.

The rest of the top five was populated by holdovers Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and Annie which earned $20.6m and $16.6m, respectively, in their second weekend in theatres.

"Their opening numbers didn't really set the world on fire, but, as we thought, they would play well over the Christmas holiday," Dergarabedian said.

Sony's The Interview, which was also available for rental and purchase online, ultimately took in $2.8m from 331 theatres since its opening on Thursday, with $1.8m of that coming from the weekend.

"I'm so grateful that the movie found its way into theatres, and I'm thrilled that people actually went out and saw it," said writer, director and star Seth Rogen in a statement. Sony initially called off the release after major theater chains dropped the comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un due to threats from hackers. But with President Barack Obama, among others criticising the decision, Sony officials changed their minds.

"We are very pleased with how it is doing both theatrically where we are seeing numerous sell-outs across the country, and online where it remains at the top of many charts" added Sony's president of worldwide distribution Rory Bruer. Earnings from digital rentals were not made available.

Other weekend debuts include Paramount's $25m crime drama The Gambler which took seventh place with a middling $9.3m from 2 478 theatres. The Weinstein Company's Big Eyes, earned only $2.97m over the weekend from 1 307 screens and $4.4m over the four days. The haul is a career low for Tim Burton compared to his other wide release openings.

In limited release, Clint Eastwood's fact-based Iraq war drama American Sniper opened in four locations, taking in a phenomenal $610 000. The staggering $152 510 per-theatre average is second this year only to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King Jr. drama Selma, meanwhile, opened in 19 locations to $590 000 over the three-day weekend for a solid $31 053 per-theatre average. The film expands nationwide on Jan. 9.

Dergarabedian thinks that less impressive debuts, such as Burton's awards hopeful Big Eyes, could find an audience in the coming weeks.

"It's just very, very crowded out there," Dergarabedian said. "The audience wins, though. There is so much choice out there. If you can't find a movie to your liking in this lineup, then you just don't like movies."

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