Bell poses at the premiere of "Frozen" at El Capitan theatre in Hollywood
By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co's animated fairy tale "Frozen" took hold of first place on movie charts in the United States and Canada for the first weekend of 2014, knocking three-time champion "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" down to the No.3 spot.
Second place went to new horror movie "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones", a spinoff from the hit low-budget "Paranormal Activity" franchise.
"Frozen," which opened on the eve of the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend in November, collected $20.7 million in ticket sales to claim the weekend box office crown, ahead of "The Marked Ones" which earned $18.2 million from Friday through Sunday, according to estimates from Rentrak.
Kristen Bell provides the voice for the lead character in "Frozen," the story of a Scandinavian princess on a search for her missing sister, the queen.
The hit film is nearing a $300 million domestic total and has collected $640 million in global ticket sales, making it the highest-grossing Disney Animation release of all-time behind only "The Lion King," Disney said.
"The Marked Ones" introduces new characters and a different story to the hit "Paranormal" franchise produced by horror filmmaker Jason Blum.
The new installment, designed to appeal specially to Latino moviegoers, features Hispanic actors and some Spanish dialogue in a story about a young man (Andrew Jacobs) in Oxnard, California, who learns he is marked for possession by a demon.
Like its predecessors, the film uses a "found footage" style that captures encounters with invisible forces on camera.
Distributor Paramount Pictures released "The Marked Ones" in January to give audiences something new after the family fare and adult dramas that crowded theaters around Christmas.
Box office forecasters had predicted the movie would start with $19 million to $23 million over the weekend. It cost just $5 million to make, a small sum for a Hollywood release.
"Clearly the (inclement) weather was a factor. Everyone took a hit," said Don Harris, president of domestic theatrical distribution for Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc. "But you tend to get the business back the next weekend," he added.
Harris said the film played, as expected, to a predominantly Hispanic audience in the largest theaters, performing especially well in the Southwest. But he noted that it also did not underperform among other demographic groups.
The first four "Paranormal" films, each released in October, have pulled in $720.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to the Box Office Mojo website. "Paranormal Activity 5" is scheduled for release in October.
"Smaug," which took in $16.3 million after three straight weeks at No.1 to fall to third place, is the second installment in the "Hobbit" fantasy series and follows the quest of Bilbo Baggins and a band of dwarves as they clash with a fire-breathing dragon.
Rounding out the charts, director Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," which stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the biographical story of a drug-snorting Wall Street scam artist, took the No. 4 spot with $13.4 million.
Fifth place went to 1970s crime caper "American Hustle." The critically praised film stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in a story loosely based on a real-life corruption scandal involving U.S. politicians, and took in $13.2 million.
"The Wolf of Wall Street" was distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom. Sony Corp's movie studio released "American Hustle."
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud; Editing by Sophie Hares and Marguerita Choy)