‘Hobbit’ Holds Off Debut Films to Finish Atop Rankings Again

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of director Peter Jackson’s trio of movies based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, was the top-grossing film at U.S. and Canadian theaters for a third weekend, collecting $32.9 million in sales.

“The Hobbit” outdrew three new films, Hollywood.com Box- Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Those movies, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” the musical “Les Miserables” and “Parental Guidance” with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, finished second through fourth, respectively.

The performance of the new films and the strength of “The Hobbit” this past weekend contributed to a year that saw U.S. movie attendance rise about 6 percent, according to Hollywood.com. That marked the first uptick in ticket purchases in two years and boosted moviegoing from a 16-year low in 2011, according to Hollywood.com.

“‘The Hobbit’ led the way, but there were several strong and different films to choose from on the way to another strong weekend at the box office, following a great year for the movie business,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of Box Office Guru, said in a telephone interview.

Hollywood studios are expected to take in a record $10.8 billion for the year, Hollywood.com estimated.

Dwarves, Dragon

“The Hobbit” stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the wizard from the Rings trilogy, and Andy Serkis again plays Gollum, the slimy, half-naked creature from the Rings trilogy. In the film, Baggins is recruited by Gandalf to join an expedition of dwarves seeking to reclaim their homeland and a treasure lost to the dragon Smaug.

“The Hobbit” has taken in $222.7 million since it was released Dec. 14.

“Django,” from Weinstein Co., had sales of $30.7 million. The film stars Jamie Foxx in the title role as a former slave. He joins Christoph Waltz’s Dr. King Schultz, a bounty hunter, to collect rewards and save his wife, a slave held by Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie. Samuel L. Jackson plays Candie’s house slave Stephen.

“‘Django’ is rated R, certainly isn’t your typical holiday film, opened at far less theaters than the ‘Hobbit’ and yet still bucked the typical holiday trend with a spectacular opening,” Pandya said. “It’s on pace to be Tarantino’s highest-grossing film ever.”

French Turmoil

“Les Miserables” took in $28 million in its third-place debut. The film from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures features Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried in a musical drama set amid the social and political turmoil of 19th century France. Box Office Guru’s Pandya predicted sales of $30 million after the film set the second best-ever Christmas Day opening.

Jackman plays Jean Valjean, a reformed ex-convict who has been sought for years by the policeman Javert, played by Crowe, after he violated parole. Hathaway is the ill-fated Fantine, while Seyfried is her daughter, Cosette.

“Musicals typically appeal to a certain segment, and for what it is, this is a terrific start,'' Pandya said.

The family comedy “Parental Guidance” from News Corp.’s Fox Film, collected $14.8 million to finish in fourth place. The film stars Crystal and Midler as a couple who must care for their unruly grandchildren. Marisa Tomei is also featured. Pandya forecast weekend ticket sales of $15 million.

Cruise Thriller

Among returning films, the Tom Cruise thriller “Jack Reacher” collected $14 million in receipts for Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount Pictures to place fifth.

“Zero Dark Thirty,” director Kathryn Bigelow’s account of the hunt for and killing of Osama Bin Laden, took in $315,000 and has collected $1.4 million since it opened in five theaters on Dec. 19. The movie, from Sony Corp. (6758), is scheduled for wide release on Jan. 11.

Separately, “Skyfall,” the latest installment in the James Bond franchise, eclipsed $1 billion in revenue worldwide this past weekend, becoming the first film of the franchise to do it, Sony said. “Skyfall” was the 11th best-performing film in U.S. markets.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 29 percent to $179.6 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Domestic box-office sales this year have totaled $10.76 billion, up 6 percent from a year earlier. Attendance is up 6 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 and estimates for yesterday.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
===============================================================
1 THE HOBBIT           $32.9   4,100   $8,029   -11  $222.7   3
2 DJANGO UNCHAINED      30.7   3,010   10,195   --     64.0   1
3 LES MISERABLES        28.0   2,814    9,960   --     67.5   1
4 PARENTAL GUIDANCE     14.8   3,367    4,396   --     29.6   1
5 JACK REACHER          14.0   3,352    4,180   -10    44.7   2
6 THIS IS 40            13.2   2,914    4,525   +10    37.1   2
7 LINCOLN                7.5   1,966    3,819   +36   132.0   8
8 THE GUILT TRIP         6.7   2,431    2,756   +24    21.1   2
9 MONSTERS, INC (3D)     6.4   2,618    2,430   +33    18.5   2
10 RISE OF THE GUARDIANS 4.9   2,055    2,384   -17    90.2   6
11 SKYFALL               4.6   1,637    2,810    -2   289.6   8
12 SILVER LININGS        4.1     745    5,517   +131   27.4   7


Top 12 Films’ Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $179.6        $139.6       +29


Year-to-date Revenue:

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
   $10,763.4      $10,167       +6


Year-to-date Attendance:        +6%

To contact the reporters on this story: Cordell Eddings in New York at ceddings@bloomberg.net; Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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