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Box office report: 'The Hobbit' captures $73.6 million; Tyler Perry's latest 'Madea' film struggles

Bilbo Baggins went after treasure this weekend, and he found a lot of it — just not quite as much as he did last year. Peter Jackson’s latest Middle-earth adventure The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug earned $73.6 million in its opening weekend, marking a 13 percent drop from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘s $84.6 million bow in December 2012.

Smaug notched the fourth-best December opening weekend ever, after An Unexpected Journey, I Am Legend ($77.2 million), and Avatar ($77 million), and although it undercut its predecessor’s debut, Warner Bros., who co-financed the film with MGM for about $225 million, can’t be too disappointed with the result. The first Hobbit film finished with $303 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide. Even if Smaug can’t match those figures (if it plays like Journey, it’s headed for $263 million domestically), it will be a hugely profitable venture for the studio.
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Box office update: 'The Hobbit' pulls in solid $31.1 million on Friday

Peter Jackson’s latest journey to Middle-Earth may be less golden than originally expected. On its first day at the box office, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug got off to a weaker start than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey did last year, though it still earned more than enough to top the chart. Smaug grossed $31.1 million, down 17 percent from the $37.1 million Friday that An Unexpected Journey managed, and it’s headed for a debut weekend of about $72 million. That would mark a substantial drop from its predecessor’s $84.6 million bow, but Smaug‘s more positive critical reception might indicate box office endurance in the weeks to come.

In second place, Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas unwrapped a shockingly low $5.7 million, putting the film on pace for a franchise-worst $15 million debut. Lionsgate’s $25 million sequel was tracking ahead of 2012′s Madea’s Witness Protection, which opened to $25.1 million, so it is rather befuddling that the comedy opened so poorly on Friday. Perhaps audiences are just tiring of the gun-packing granny. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: Will 'The Hobbit' desolate the competition?

Last weekend, the box office was as Frozen as the weather. Disney’s animated musical climbed past Catching Fire to reach the number one spot, but dragon’s breath will melt its throne when The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug arrives in theaters — and don’t count out Tyler Perry’s latest Madea movie, either. Overall, this weekend should be a pretty big frame for the four movies on top of the box office. Here’s how it might shake out:

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – $77 million
Last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey pulled in a strong $84.6 million on opening weekend en route to a $303 million domestic finish and $1 billion worldwide. The film was received moderately well, but audiences weren’t in love with the candy-coated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings prequel. Still, fans of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth adventures are pretty committed at this point (the four films have earned over $3.9 billion worldwide), and although Smaug may open a shade below its predecessor, it’s still headed for a massive opening. Warner Bros., which co-financed the film with MGM for a reported $225 million, has smartly emphasized Evangeline Lilly and Orlando Bloom in marketing materials in order to differentiate it from the first film, which mainly focused on bearded dwarves and Martin Freeman’s titular character. Out in 3,903 theaters, Expect Smaug to drum up about $75-80 million this weekend. READ FULL STORY

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