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Weekend Box Office: Wicked, tricksy hobbit steals box-office glory

There may be very little creative rationale for splitting J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit into three separate movies, but any doubts as to the financial sense of the decision were trampled, mauled, and burnt to a crisp this weekend. Though it grossed a bit less than last December’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, this December’s The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug made short work of the competition, burgling $73.7 million from a nation apparently still stoked for long walks across gorgeous New Zealand scenery. While certainly enough to put a glint in the eye of any gold-lusting dwarf—and presumably to get Warner Bros. thinking about how many films it can squeeze out Mr. Bliss—that tally wasn’t enough to earn Smaug the top December opening. Its predecessor still holds the record, followed by Avatar and I Am Legend. Lesson in all this: Audiences really like dudes taking long strolls through fantastic lands, surrounded by CGI creatures.

While Disney’s Frozen stayed strong in second, adding another $22.2 million to the Mouse House piggybank, Madea had to settle for a soft third-place finish. Her latest round of tough-love ass whippings, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, opened to only $16 million—the lowest debut ever for a film starring the take-no-shit grandmother. That’s two consecutive disappointments for Perry, whose Peeples flopped back in May. On the bright side, the mogul’s insane infidelity melodrama Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor—by our count, the sixth worst film of the year—made a cool $53 million in the spring. What’s more, this latest Perry product has a yuletide angle to it, meaning it could rally for a comeback in the next couple weeks. Either way, don’t expect Perry to hang up the dress just yet. The Madea franchise has made north of $300 million, meaning that only a couple of true box-office disasters could put the moralizing madwoman to rest.

Rounding out the top five were November’s biggest blockbusters, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($13 million) and Thor: The Dark World ($2.7 million), while Out Of The Furnace continued to underperform, its second-weekend gross of $2.3 million bringing the film’s total to a very slight $9.4 million. But it wasn’t all bad news for Christian Bale: The actor’s other December movie, American Hustle, hustled its way to $690,000 on just six screens—a good $200 million or so more than what Saving Mr. Banks, starring Emma Thompson, made on about twice as many screens. American audiences apparently prefer their English actors in funny disguises, be they pointy ears, big feet, or an elaborate comb-over hairpiece.

For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.      

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