Thanks to a strong Christmas, Hollywood is safe to begin celebrating a record year at the North American box office. With two days left to go, revenue will match 2012's record $10.8 billion sometime on Sunday, putting the final tally for the year in the $10.9 billion range.
Dominating the final weekend were a trio of all-audience offerings: Warner Bros.' The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Disney's runaway family hit Frozen and Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman: The Legend Continues. The three holdovers beat out six new films opening nationwide on Christmas day, including three that quickly bombed -- Universal's pricey 47 Ronin, WB's Sylvester Stallone-Robert De Niro comedy Grudge Match and Justin Bieber documentary Believe.
As expected, Desolation of Smaug placed No. 1 for the third weekend in a row with $29.9 million, pushing its domestic total to $190.3 million.
Disney's unstoppable Frozen wasn't far behind in grossing $28.8 million -- the second best showing of all time for a film in its sixth weekend after Avatar ($34.9 million) and besting Titanic ($25.2 million).
The animated tentpole has now earned $248.3 million in North America, pointing to the immense staying power a family film can enjoy and becoming Disney's most successful title domestically after The Lion King. It also underscores a dearth of family product (Walking With Dinosaurs was the only new family offering of the Christmas season, but it quickly became extinct, earning just $20.8 million to date).
Paramount's Anchorman 2 took in $20.2 million in its second weekend for a domestic total of $83.7 million, just shy of the $85.3 million earned all in by the first film.
After that, a crowded crop of Christmas offerings vying for adults and awards attention duked it out for their place on the top 10 chart. Martin Scorsese's R-rated, sex-laced The Wolf of Wall Street, among the films launching nationwide Dec. 25, was narrowly beat by David O. Russell's holdover American Hustle for the weekend.
American Hustle, likewise rated R, placed No. 4 for the weekend with $19.6 million to cross the $60 million mark domestically for Sony.
Wolf of Wall Street followed at No. 5 with weekend earnings of $18.5 million, putting its five-day debut at a strong $34.3 million. Red Granite fully financed the $100 million-plus film, with Paramount handling marketing and distribution.
Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Wall Street bad boy Jordan Belfort, barely received an R rating (Scorsese agreed to trim certain sex scenes in order to avoid getting slapped with an NC-17). The big question is whether the movie, expected to do especially well on both coasts, will play in America's heartland (the film's C CinemaScore could be an indication of the split). Boasting a running time of two hours and 59 minutes, Wolf marks Scorsese's longest film by a minute, topping Casino.
20th Century Fox's Christmas Day entry The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by and starring Ben Stiller, was likewise narrowly beat on its first weekend by a holdover, Disney's Saving Mr. Banks.
Starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks was up an astonishing 50 percent in its second weekend of nationwide play, grossing $14 million for a domestic total of $37.8 million and coming in No. 6 (Frozen was up 45 percent). Banks' hold is sure to be a boost for its awards campaign.
Secret Life of Walter Mitty, costing $91 million to make, placed No. 7 with $13 million for a five-day debut of $25.6 million.
Universal's ill-fated 47 Ronin eked out a 9th place finish with $9.9 million for a sobering five-day debut of $20.6 million, far from enough considering the film's $175 million budget. The Keanu Reeves samurai epic was co-financed by Universal and Elliott.
Universal has known the film was troubled financially for quite some time and says it has already accounted for a loss. "Universal Pictures regularly evaluates its film slate for potential adjustment. In the case of 47 Ronin, we adjusted film costs in previous quarters and as a result our financial performance will not be negatively impacted this quarter by its theatrical performance," the studio said in a statement.
Warner Bros.' $40 million Grudge Match opened outside the top 10, coming in No. 11 for the weekend with $7.3 million, putting its five-day debut at a troubled $13.4 million.
Bieber's Believe fared even worse, coming in No. 14 with an estimated $2 million. The concert documentary took in just $4.2 million in its five-day debut, a fraction of the $29.5 million opening of his last film, Never Say Never. While Believe is playing in far fewer theaters that Never Say Never (1,037 versus 3,000), but it still vastly underperformed. Open Road Films is distributing and marketing Believe.