LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Tolkien fantasy epic “The Hobbit” enjoyed a second week at the top of the North American box office, while controversial low-brow comedy “The Interview” scored $15 million from online rentals and purchases.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, directed by Oscar-winning heavyweight Peter Jackson, is the last of six films adapted from J R R Tolkien’s books and the third and final instalment based on the author’s novel “The Hobbit”.
It took in $41.4 million over the weekend, its second week in theatres, for a total of $168.5 million since its release, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Sony, meanwhile, said the huge online rentals and sales volume – two million times for a $15 million total – for “The Interview” during the first four days of the holiday weekend made it the studio’s “#1 online film of all time”.
The movie only played in 331 independent movie houses after threats from hackers who claimed a cyberattack of Sony Studios, which the Whitehouse said was orchestrated by North Korea.
The low-brow comedy featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco revolves around the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Pyongyang was outraged by the film, but has denied any involvement in the hack.
“The Interview” earned $1.8 million over the weekend, adding to the $1 million it raked in on its Christmas Day limited release.
In second place at the box office was “Unbroken”, directed by Angelina Jolie, which tells the story of US bombardier Louis Zamperini, who was taken captive during World War II.
The film, which was snubbed at this month’s Golden Globe nominations, fetched $31.7 million in its debut weekend.
Following closely behind was Disney’s “Into the Woods”, adapted from a Broadway musical, starring Meryl Streep as a witch who puts a curse on a childless baker and his wife.
The film, a modern twist on several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, raked in $31 million over the weekend.
In the number four spot was “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”, the third movie in the Ben Stiller family-comedy franchise about a museum security guard trying to keep track of exhibits that come to life at the New York Museum of Natural History.
The flick earned $20.6 million in its second week in theatres.
“Annie”, about the adventures of an orphan girl starring Quvenzhane Wallis in the title role and Jamie Foxx as the tycoon who takes her under his wing, sat in fifth place.
In its second week out, the movie brought in $16.6 million.
“Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” raked in $10 million, slipping into sixth place.
The sequel, one in the hugely popular series starring Jennifer Lawrence, has earned a whopping $306.7 million in its six weeks in theatres.
In seventh was newcomer “The Gambler”, raking in $9.3 million. The film stars Mark Wahlberg as a high-stakes gambler who offers his own life as collateral when he borrows from a gangster.
“The Imitation Game”, about a code-cracking mathematician and logician during World War II, was in eighth with $7.9 million.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ridley Scott’s biblical blockbuster “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, in ninth with $6.8 million, and “Wild”, starring Reese Witherspoon, which earned $5.4 million.