Christmas box office report: 'The Hobbit' beats out 'Wolf of Wall Street' in a tight race

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In one way, the story remains the same: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continued its winning streak at the box office Christmas Day, snagging a healthy $9.3 million in receipts.

But while Martin Scorsese’s big, bold black comedy Wolf of Wall Street – which opened Wednesday — didn’t manage to vanquish Peter Jackson’s epic sequel, it came pretty darn close; Wolf‘s debut totaled $9.15 million. What’s more, Wolf managed this feat while appearing on 3,100 fewer screens than The Hobbit (3,700 vs. 6,800) and in 1,391 fewer theaters (2,537 vs. 3,928) — giving it the day’s highest average receipts per showing, which bodes well for the picture’s future. (Though as a commenter points out, Wolf‘s surprisingly low “C” CinemaScore could indicate trouble ahead.)

The Hobbit and The Wolf were followed by Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which added $8.1 million to its gross — making the film’s box office to date $56.7 million, or just a few million more than EW thought it might earn over a five-day period. (Anchorman 2‘s been out since Dec. 15.) Two more Oscar hopefuls — Ben Stiller’s Secret Life of Walter Mitty retread, which opened Wednesday (CinemaScore: B+), and David O. Russell’s hair-raising American Hustle — rounded out the top five, earning $7.8 million and $7.4 million respectively.

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – $9.3 million
2. The Wolf of Wall Street — $9.15 million
3. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – $8.1 million
4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — $7.8 million
5. American Hustle – $7.4 million

The day’s biggest success story, however, may be Spike Jonze’s lyrical techno-romance Her, which earned $259,000 after expanding from six theaters to 47 on Christmas Day. Strong reviews — EW called it “undeniably clever” and gave the film a B — and word-of-mouth fueled Jonze’s movie to earn $5,511 per theater, the highest average for any movie playing Wednesday. Her opens wide Jan. 10.

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