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Second Hobbit is weekend’s No. 1

By KATIA PORZECANSKI AND BEN LIVESEY BLOOMBERG

This article was published December 20, 2013 at 3:38 a.m.

caption-evangeline-lilly-as-tauriel-in-the-fantasy-adventure-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-a-production-of-new-line-cinema-and-metro-goldwyn-mayer-pictures-mgm-released-by-warner-bros-pictures-and-mgm

Caption: EVANGELINE LILLY as Tauriel in the fantasy adventure "THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG," a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), released by Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM..

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, collected about $74 million in its opening weekend for Warner Bros. and MGM to lead U.S. and Canadian ticket sales.

The film lagged behind its predecessor, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opened with $84.6 million a year ago, Rentrak Corp. said Sunday. A Madea Christmas, the eighth installment in the comedy series, collected $16 million in third place for Lionsgate.

The Desolation of Smaug, Jackson’s fifth film based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, adds to Warner’s box-office lead among studios as the end of 2013 approaches. Together, the first Hobbit and three Lord of the Rings movies from 2001 to 2003 generated more than $3.9 billion in global box-office sales.

The Desolation of Smaug was projected to collect $80 million, according to researcher BoxOffice.com, and could take in $280 million in its entire domestic run. As with the first Hobbit picture, the film’s success will hinge more on international sales,which total $131.2 million so far, according to Rentrak.

In The Desolation of Smaug, Martin Freeman returns as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Ian McKellen reprises Gandalf, the wizard he portrayed in the first Hobbit film and the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movie picks up where the last Hobbit film ended, with Baggins, Gandalf and their dwarf friends continuing the quest to reclaim their homeland, Erebor, from the dragon Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

RottenTomatoes.com, a website that aggregates reviews, gives the film a 74 percent positive rating, an improvement over the 65 percent rating earned by An Unexpected Journey.

The highest-grossing film of Jackson’s franchise is 2003’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which collected $377 million domestically and $1.13 billion worldwide.

A Madea Christmas, the only other film to open in wide release, was projected by BoxOffice.com to take in $33 million for Lionsgate. The comedy was directed, written and produced by Perry, who also stars as the main character in drag, Mabel Madea Simmons.

In this installment, Madea helps a niece pay a surprise visit to her daughter, and announces she won’t be coming home for Christmas.

Saving Mr. Banks, from Disney, also opened in limited release ahead of an expanded debut today. About the making of the film Mary Poppins, it stars Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, the author of the book the movie is based on, and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. Thompson received a Golden Globe nomination for best actress for a drama.

Saving Mr. Banks garnered an 81 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com.

The animated feature Frozen placed second this past weekend, collecting $22.6 million in its third week of wide release. That brings the film’s domestic total to about $165 million.

Catching Fire placed fourth in its fourth weekend, with about $14 million for Lionsgate. The sequel to the 2012 film about teens fighting to the death, starring Jennifer Lawrence, has taken in more than $357.5 million domestically since its debut on Nov. 22, according to Rentrak.

Thor: The Dark World, the superhero sequel from Disney’s Marvel studios, took fifth place with about $3 million.

MovieStyle, Pages 37 on 12/20/2013

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