‘The Hobbit’ tops box office in North America


LOS ANGELES–Fantasy blockbuster “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” ruled the North American box office this weekend, holding off a strong festive season challenge from Disney’s animated musical “Frozen,” estimates showed Sunday. The second part of Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved classic, earned almost US$29.9 million over the weekend, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations. Starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf, the film has raked in US$190.3 million in the United States and Canada since its release three weeks ago. Moving up one spot to second place with US$28.8 million was “Frozen,” a loosely based retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Snow Queen.” The film, the 53rd movie in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series which began with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, has taken US$248.4 million to date. In third place was “Anchorman 2,” the Will Ferrell comedy which sees him reprise his role as screwball newsman Ron Burgundy. The sequel took US$20.2 million in its second week of release. Critically acclaimed comedy “American Hustle” — starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams as grifters who team up with an FBI agent played by Bradley Cooper to bring down other con artists — remained in fourth place. The movie, which has been nominated for seven Golden Globes and is expected to be in contention at the Oscars, took US$19.6 million. In fifth spot was Martin Scorsese’s latest collaboration with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” earning US$18.5 million on its debut weekend. The movie is based on the debauched rise and fall of disgraced Wall Street financier Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), who conned his way to hundreds of millions in the 1990s while maintaining a notoriously drug-fuelled lifestyle.

Sixth place was taken by “Saving Mr. Banks,” a drama about Walt Disney’s quest to make a film adaptation of “Mary Poppins,” with US$14.0 million.

Its stars — Tom Hanks as Disney and Emma Thompson as Poppins’ anti-Hollywood author — have both been nominated for Golden Globes. In seventh place was Ben Stiller’s romantic comedy “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” an updated adaptation of James Thurber’s famous 1939 short story about a strait-laced office worker who loses himself in heroic daydreams. The film, which stars Stiller in the lead role, took US$13.0 million.

In eighth place was the latest installment of the blockbuster “Hunger Games” franchise with US$10.2 million, taking its overall earnings since its record opening six weeks ago to US$391 million in North America alone. The worst fears surrounding Keanu Reeves’ latest movie “47 Ronin” were confirmed however as the big-budget samurai epic opened in ninth with a meager US$9.9 million. Reports have said the troubled movie — originally due for release in November 2012 — may lead to a US$175 million loss for Universal Pictures.

In 10th, with US$7.4 million, was “A Madea Christmas,” directed by and starring Tyler Perry in his recurring role as Madea, chronicling yet another adventure in the life of the tough, old woman.