No surprises this weekend as Peter Jackson’s long awaited return to Middle Earth with THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY shot to the top spot faster than anyone could say ‘divisive frame rate decision’. Boosted by a 3D premium, the dwarf-heavy film clocked an £11.6M total, just over the £11M achieved by FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING in 2001, but significantly down on TWO TOWERS at £13M in 2002 and THE RETURN OF THE KING at £15M in 2003. At second position, third week hold RISE OF THE GUARDIANS took a further £1.2M with the festive vibe ramped up to 11 and the flick on a respectable £5.6M to date. Finally at third, NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER continued to prove itself critic proof with a further £938K and £5.6M so far, despite some of the worst reviews this side of TOP CAT. Christmas is well and truly in the air.
At fourth place in the rundown eighth week Bond caper SKYFALL took a further £809K and £98M total to date. At fifth, Disney fairy explosion TINKERBELL AND THE SECRET OF THE WINGS launched to £528K – comparing favourably to the £288K launch for TINKERBELL AND THE GREAT FAIRY RESCUE back in 2010. At sixth position, a fifth week of play for TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 saw another £509K to make £34M thus far for the franchise finale, and at seventh, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS took another £452K, and £2M after two weeks of play. At eight place, a live production of ball-numbingly long Verdi opera Aida from the Met took £235K from a single show in 115 sites, while at ninth, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK took a further £231K in week 4 and at tenth, ARGO squeezed out another £108K in its sixth week to put the spy thriller on £5.1M so far.
Of the remaining new starts, hi-tech environmental doc CHASING ICE launched to a weekend total of £7.6K from six sites and £13.5K after previews, while campy French crime thriller LOVE CRIME took £5.8K from seven sites. A couple of reissues, BABETTE’S FEAST and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE opened to meagre £5.4K and £2.7K totals respectively, but perhaps the biggest missed opportunity of the weekend saw a single site launch for Sundance sensation SMASHED take just £2K. Disappointing.
Over in the states, the top spot saw THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY take $84M and rank as the highest ever launch for a Jackson Middle Earth flick – comparing to FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING at $47M, THE TWO TOWERS at $62M and THE RETURN OF THE KING at $72M. At second position, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS took a further $7.4M to make $71M after four weekends, and at third, LINCOLN emancipated a further $7.2M and put the flick on $107M to date. Few speciality openers registered in a busy season dominated by blockbusters and prestige Oscar flicks, although SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON and HITCHCOCK all held respectably.
From this Friday, after launching to £73K from an eight site exclusive preview opening last Friday, Fox’s big play for the family market with tiger/child showdown LIFE OF PI opens wide. The flick faces up to THE HOBBIT in its crucial second weekend, so look out for the studio equivalent of a ‘Come at me bro/hold me back’ type scenario. As a result, it’s pretty slim pickings for alternative openers sadly, save for a small launch for hit doc WEST OF MEMPHIS and existentialist Indie BOXING DAY.