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

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