Move over, Bilbo Baggins, because Ron Burgundy is kind of a big deal.
At least, that's what early box office estimates indicate for the weekend debut of Viacom's (NASDAQ:VIAB) Anchorman: The Legend Continues.
After nearly doubling the $26 million budget of its 2004 predecessor -- which itself earned a solid $90.6 million in gross ticket receipts in 2004 -- you can be sure Viacom is betting on a solid theatrical run with its hilarious sequel.
As it stands, Anchorman: The Legend Continues has already garnered $8.1 million from its Wednesday evening launch alone, which puts its estimated first-weekend sales conservatively in the $30 million to $35 million range. That said, polled audiences only granted Anchorman 2 a mediocre "B" CinemaScore -- indicating they were suitably entertained but not overwhelmed -- which might not do it any favors with regard to positive word of mouth.
Meanwhile, assuming Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) big-budget holdover in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug follows a similar second-weekend trajectory as the first film last year, Smaug should earn a respectable $32.1 million over the next three days. I definitely wouldn't be surprised, then, if Anchorman 2 manages to pull off a solid upset over Time Warner's $220 million blockbuster.
But don't shed any tears for Time Warner; remember, going into weekend two, Smaug has already earned more than $231 million globally thanks to the franchise's characteristically strong international reception.
A little too crowded?
However, Anchorman and Smaug certainly won't be alone in their quests for dominance. News Corp's (NASDAQ:NWS) 20th Century Fox, for one, could also strike it rich with the 3D-heavy Walking With Dinosaurs, which boasts a lofty $80 million production budget and stands alone as the sole animated newcomer to enjoy a wide weekend release.
This in mind, remember Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Frozen also held up relatively well seven days ago going into its third week, falling just 29.8% week-over-week to take in around $22.2 million. If Frozen can maintain its strong box office legs once again, it would almost certainly be at the expense of News Corp's promising prehistoric effort.
Finally, while Sony Pictures is looking forward to this weekend's launch of the star-studded, critically acclaimed American Hustle, Disney will also turn its attention to explaining how its classic Mary Poppins film came to be with the limited theatrical release of Saving Mr. Banks.
I'll be sure to touch base as the weekend progresses. But all things considered and with so many great options to choose from, it seems unlikely last week's single-film dominance will resurface this time around.
Fool contributor Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.