Weekend Box Office: 'Smaug' Stays on Top, but Disney's the Real Winner

Image sources: Disney

For the third weekend in a row, Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  )  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug managed to remain on top at the domestic box office, falling only 5.3% from last weekend to gross an impressive $29.85 million.

Considering the first Hobbit film fell 13.5% to $31.9 million during the same year-ago period, Smaug's undeniable box office legs have effectively negated concerns stemming from its slower-than-expected start. As it stands, Time Warner's big-budget sequel has already hauled in more than $614 million worldwide.

Move over, Smaug

But for all its dominant ways, Smaug wasn't the industry's biggest winner last weekend. To the contrary, a pair of holdovers from Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) absolutely stole the show over the past three days, which explains why shares of the entertainment stalwart are currently trading up nearly 3% as of this writing.

First, ticket sales for Disney's Frozen actually rose an astounding 46.9% over last weekend to $28.85 million, bringing its worldwide total to an impressive $491.9 million. For some perspective, that stands as the $150 million animated film's best weekend haul since its record-setting wide release five weeks ago.

Second, movie-goers flocked to Disney's Saving Mr. Banks, sales for which increased by a whopping 50% to just over $14 million in its own third weekend. All told, the intriguing story of Walt Disney's working relationship with Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers has garnered more than $43.3 million globally, handily outpacing Disney's modest $35 million production budget and putting it back on track for eventual profitability.

So how did the folks at Disney do it? In short, they made a pair of great movies. Remember, polled audiences granted Frozen an unheard-of "A+" CinemaScore, while Saving Mr. Banks earned a rare "A" from its own respective viewers. And while Time Warner's Smaug was no slouch with its "A-" score, both Disney movies are reaping the benefits of overwhelmingly positive word-of-mouth.

In other news...

Meanwhile, Viacom's (NASDAQ: VIAB  ) hilarious sequel in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues held up fairly well despite its own "B" CinemaScore, falling 24.7% to $20.15 million in its second weekend. Don't feel too bad for Viacom, though; Anchorman 2 has already grossed more than $109 million worldwide on its $50 million budget, easily exceeding the $90.6 million cume achieved during the entire theatrical run of its 2004 predecessor.

Next, Lionsgate's (NYSE: LGF  )  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire continued to run up the score in week six, rising 16.4% to earn another $10.2 million in the U.S. That puts Catching Fire's box office total at $795 million, compared to the $691.2 million gathered over 24 weeks by the first Hunger Games in early 2012. 

And speaking of movies featuring the lovely Jennifer Lawrence, Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) Pictures' critically acclaimed American Hustle also managed to increase 2.3% from its launch last week to $19.55 million. So far, Sony's $40 million production outlay has turned in an impressive $62 million in gross receipts.

Finally, and as I suspected last week, several newcomers made only small waves on the big screen. Viacom's $100 million drama in The Wolf of Wall Street earned $18.5 million, good for a domestic-only gross of $34.3 million since its Christmas debut. And while News Corp's $90 million effort with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty brought just $13 million over the past three days, it has also enjoyed a solid $52.8 million cume globally since launching on Christmas. 

The only new wide release next weekend comes in the form of Viacom's Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which shouldn't pose any significant risk to any of the above-mentioned films. As a result, I think it's safe to expect today's winners to continue dominating.

The next step

You're probably aware everyone from the studios, actors, directors, and producers are earning millions at the box office, but did you know you can profit, too?

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