Warner Bros. reports that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug earned an estimated $31.15 million on Friday, putting it on pace for a likely $75 million weekend. Those figures include the film's $8.8 million earned from midnight shows, representing just over 28 percent of opening day grosses--an improvement over the 35 percent midnight share of opening day for last year's An Unexpected Journey. IMAX accounted for 13 percent ($3.979 million) of Friday's haul. Overall, Smaug's opening day was 16 percent lower than its predecessor ($37.1 million).
Smaug's projected opening weekend will end up closer to expectations following what looked to be an even more underwhelming start early last night. Winter weather may be affecting things, although the lower share of midnight grosses indicates that fans may have indeed been the audience sector where the most upfront excitement was lost in the wake of last year's mixed reception for the first Hobbit entry. Early word of mouth appears solid for Smaug so far with an "A-" CinemaScore and 88 percent of Flixster users liking or still anticipating seeing the film. With a crowded holiday schedule ahead, this second Hobbit pic is aiming to maintain most of its core family audience through Christmas and New Year's while also bringing in stronger overseas sales than Journey.
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas grabbed an estimated $5.74 million yesterday as the comedy heads toward a $16 million debut. The opening day figure is noticeably down a sharp 43 percent from Madea's Witness Protection's $10.15 million in June 2012. Although it is another possible victim of winter weather, A Madea Christmas is generally underperforming compared to tracking and Perry's own personal reputation for strong openings from his Madea brand. That said, the holiday theme of the comedy makes it a candidate to attract his fans closer to the Christmas holiday and result in a more backloaded run than his films typically see. A Madea Christmas currently boasts a solid 83 percent approval/anticipation rating on Flixster.
Disney's Frozen added an estimated $5.1 million on Friday, off just over 24 percent from the same day last week. The animated breakout has totaled a stellar $147.3 million thus far, about 17 percent ahead of the pace of 1999's Toy Story 2. Look for Frozen to total $23 million this weekend.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire slid 47 percent from last Friday to an estimated $4.1 million yesterday. The respectable drop was expected as competition from, and loss of IMAX screens to, The Hobbit slightly ate into the Lionsgate flick's start to the weekend. BoxOffice projects a $13.8 million weekend for the blockbuster sequel.
On the platform front, Sony's American Hustle bowed to $210,909 from 6 locations yesterday for a $35,152 per-theater average. Hustle should bring in a fantastic $700,000 for the weekend before its wide expansion on December 20. The star-studded cast and director David O. Russell's recent success with Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter are paying off in a big way for one of the awards season's early favorites (nabbing 7 Golden Globe nominations this past week). By comparison, The Fighter tallied $98,521 on opening day from 4 locations ($24,630 per theater) on the same weekend three years ago.
Last, but certainly not least, Disney's Saving Mr. Banks also kicked off its run with a platform opening this weekend. The tale of the origins of Mary Poppins rang up an estimated $126,000 yesterday from 15 locations for an $8,400 per-theater average. That's in line with Finding Neverland's $8,125 first-day average from 8 locations back in November 2004. BoxOffice projects Saving Mr. Banks will take in $430,000 this weekend before it also expands nationwide next Friday.
Additional reporting by Daniel Garris