NEW YORK (AP) – While Hollywood continued to wrestle with the fallout of the Sony hacking scandal, the weekend box office offered the solace of a movie-going truism: Hobbits sell.
Peter Jackson’s final instalment of his six JRR Tolkien adventures, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, debuted with US$56.2 million over the weekend and $90.6 million since opening Wednesday, according to studio estimates Sunday.
For an industry reeling from the cancellation of “The Interview” and terrorist threats against moviegoers, Middle Earth provided reliable refuge.
Aided by popularity on Imax screens, “The Battle of the Five Armies” dominated the pre-Christmas frame with a five-day haul similar to the franchise’s previous entry, “The Desolation of Smaug”, even if its actual debut weekend was notably less than for both prior “Hobbit” movies.
In its second week of release overseas, Warner Bros’ “Five Armies” added $105.5 million to bring its two-week global total past $350 million.
Jeff Goldstein, head of domestic distribution for Warner Bros, said the healthy weekend of movie-going was a welcome respite after an “upsetting and so disturbing” week.
“Not only did we do business in places that I would expect, like the West Coast, we did business everywhere in the country,” Goldstein said. “We didn’t see that on the prior two Hobbits.”
Another final instalment in a trilogy, “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”, opened in a distant second place. The Fox comedy, which features Robin Williams’ final performance, took in $17.3 million, well off the pace of previous franchise entries.
The franchise’s previous debut was $54.2 million for 2009’s “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”.
Sony Pictures, which on Wednesday shelved the December 25 release of the North Korea satire “The Interview” following hacker threats of violence against theatres showing the film, unveiled its other holiday option. The studio’s “Annie” remake, starring Quvenzhane Wallis as the titular orphan, opened with $16.3 million.
“It was nice shot in the arm,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony, who declined to discuss issues related to “The Interview”. “We’re focused on ‘Annie’,” he said.