Move aside Smaug, because a Disney (NYSE: DIS ) princess just took your seat.
After three consecutive weeks on top at the box office, Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX ) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug rang in just under $15.7 million last weekend. That's not too shabby for a fourth-week holdover, and brings Smaug's global haul to a mind-boggling $756 million so far.
But it was still only good enough for a distant third in the U.S. behind Disney's Frozen and Viacom's (NASDAQ: VIAB ) Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which respectively earned around $19.6 million and $18.3 million.
On one hand, Viacom's silver medal was understandable considering The Marked Ones was the only significant wide new release this weekend. In addition, I expected it might be difficult for The Marked Ones to win with only 2,867 screens to start, compared with more than 3,300 and 3,700 for Frozen and Smaug, respectively.
But Frozen's resilience, on the other hand, is downright remarkable. Why?
Consider this: When Smaug landed stateside on Dec. 13, Frozen was already entering its third weekend and earned a solid second place with $22.6 million. In fact, I even suggested Disney and Frozen were doing well to simply run up the score at that point. Now, Frozen has just finished on top after its sixth week at the domestic box office -- an unheard-of feat in the movie industry -- bringing its worldwide total to nearly $639 million, or more than quadruple Disney's $150 million production budget.
Here's how Frozen continues to outperform
Then again, I suppose its success isn't entirely surprising.
After all, Frozen remains the only big-budget film still in theaters to have earned a perfect "A+" CinemaScore from polled audiences, leaving Disney to benefit from overwhelmingly positive word of mouth. What's more, Frozen kicked things off in November by breaking Toy Story 2's 14-year-old record for the largest Thanksgiving weekend opening.
In fact, had it not been for the incredible holdover performance of Lionsgate's (NYSE: LGF ) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that very same weekend, Frozen would also currently hold the record for the largest overall Thanksgiving weekend total. In any case, both films managed to shatter that previous high mark, which was set 12 years ago when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone took in $57.5 million.
So where did Catching Fire end up in the most recent three-day period? All the way down in ninth place, earning a little over $7 million. Of course, that's following a much more normal curve for an eighth-week blockbuster, and doesn't mean we should be crying for Lionsgate. Catching Fire has grossed a stellar $830.5 million on the big screen to date, or more than six times Lionsgate's lofty $130 million production budget.
Coming up next
Next weekend, Lionsgate's also hoping for moderate success with The Legend of Hercules in roughly 2,000 theaters, while Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) could put a dent in some of the other action-centric films with the 2,700-screen expansion of its R-rated action drama, Lone Survivor.
But neither title should pose any significant threat to Disney's Frozen, which should continue to enjoy a relative stranglehold on its target audience for at least another week.
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