Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and holdover The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ended Friday in a virtual tie as the final weekend before Christmas got underway.
Anchorman 2 enjoyed a slight advantage, grossing $8.7 million, compared to $8.6 million for Desolation of Smaug, but most box office observers believe Smaug will win the weekend with $30 million-plus. On Friday, Peter Jackson's tentpole soared past the $300 million mark worldwide and $100 million domestically.
From Paramount, Anchorman 2 is projected to take in a solid $29 million for the weekend, putting its five-day debut (the comedy opened Wednesday) in the $42 million range.
Anchorman 2, made for $50 million and receiving a B CinemaScore, sees the return of Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Christina Applegate while adding newcomers James Marsden, Harrison Ford and Kristen Wiig. It follows the news team as they make the transition from San Diego to New York. Adam McKay returns to direct from a script he co-wrote with Ferrell.
Coming in No. 3 on Friday was David O. Russell's critically acclaimed American Hustle. The film took in $6.3 million for a projected $19 million weekend, on par with last year's Oscar winner Argo (American Hustle, however, earned a B+ CinemaScore from audiences, versus an A+ for Argo).
American Hustle, recounting the Abscam political scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s, boasts a strong ensemble cast led by Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Earlier this month, American Hustle picked up seven Golden Globe nominations, tying with Fox Searchlight's 12 Years a Slave for the most nods. The film, produced by Megan Ellison, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle and Jonathan Gordon, cost $40 million to make.
Disney's family hit Frozen could beat American Hustle for the weekend itself and take the No. 3 spot in a continued victory for Disney Animation Studios.
Even though Frozen is a month into its run, it is handily beating 20th Century Fox's new family entry Walking With Dinosaurs, which took in a tepid $2.2 million on Friday to come in No. 8.
Walking With Dinosaurs, adapted from the BBC miniseries and earning a B CinemaScore, has no human cast and tells the story of Patchi, an underdog dinosaur who transforms into a hero (Justin Long and John Leguizamo lead the voice cast). Walking With Dinosaurs, produced by BBC and Evergreen, was co-financed by Reliance, IM Global and Fox for roughly $80 million.
Rounding out the top five on Friday was Disney's awards contender Saving Mr. Banks. Starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, the film grossed $3 million for a projected $10 million weekend. While Disney may have wanted slightly more, that's a solid number considering the film is likely to skew older, meaning it will grow more slowly. Saving Mr. Banks, costing $35 million, also should benefit from earning an A CinemaScore.
Both American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks expanded nationwide on Friday after opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend.