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'Hobbit' remains top film

 

Ben Livesey and Matt Robinson
(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" remained the top-selling motion picture in U.S. and Canadian theaters for a third weekend as 2013 box-office sales neared an annual record.

"The Desolation of Smaug," the second of three films from works by J.R.R. Tolkien, generated $29.9 million for Time Warner's Warner Bros. and MGM, beating five new wide releases, Rentrak said in an emailed statement on Sunday. Among the debuts, "The Wolf of Wall Street," Martin Scorsese's picture about penny stockbroker Jordan Belfort, took in $18.5 million and finished fifth for Viacom's Paramount Pictures.

The strong lineup of weekend films is carrying sales at U.S. and Canadian theaters toward the $10.8 billion annual record set last year, according to Rentrak. The latest "Hobbit" has helped Warner Bros. cement the No. 1 position at the domestic box office this year, with $1.81 billion in revenue as of Thursday, according to Box Office Mojo, another industry researcher.

"'The Hobbit' is keeping its position as the winter blockbuster," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak, before the sales were announced. "It's giving Warner Bros. a nice push at the end of the year."

As of Thursday, "The Desolation of Smaug" has garnered $436.8 million in global ticket sales since its release more than two weeks ago, with 63 percent from overseas, according to Box Office Mojo. Its predecessor produced $1.02 billion in its theatrical run, with 70 percent from international markets.

Martin Freeman returns in "The Desolation of Smaug" as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen reprises Gandalf, the wizard. The movie picks up where the last one ended, with Baggins, Gandalf and their dwarf friends continuing the quest to reclaim their homeland, Erebor, from the dragon Smaug.

"The Desolation of Smaug" was expected to take in $29.5 million this weekend, according to BoxOffice.com.

"The Wolf of Wall Street," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was projected by BoxOffice.com to open with sales of $23.8 million. The movie, featuring DiCaprio as the central character, follows the real-life rise and fall of Belfort, who founded the 1990s firm Stratton Oakmont and spent 22 months in prison for securities fraud.

It also stars Jonah Hill as Belfort's partner, Margot Robbie as his spouse and Matthew McConaughey as Mark Hanna, Belfort's mentor at his old firm. Rob Reiner plays Belfort's father.

The movie, which garnered Golden Globe nominations for best comedy and best actor in a comedy, was made for $100 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The three-hour film has been buoyed by favorable reviews, with some critics comparing it to Scorsese's "Mean Streets" and "Goodfellas." It got a 76 percent positive rating by RottenTomatoes.com, a review aggregator.

"'The Wolf of Wall Street' hums with vulgar, voyeuristic energy," wrote A.O. Scott in the New York Times. "It has been a while since Mr. Scorsese has thrown himself into filmmaking with this kind of exuberance."

The week's four other new releases placed from seventh to 14th.

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," a comedy directed by and starring Ben Stiller, was seventh for 21st Century Fox, with $13 million in sales.

Stiller is featured in the title role as a daydreamer who escapes into a world of fantasies. After his job is threatened, his real life turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have imagined.

The movie, which cost $90 million, according to Box Office Mojo, was projected to take in $20 million, according to BoxOffice.com. It garnered a 47 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com.

"47 Ronin," a samurai action film starring Keanu Reeves, produced sales of $9.9 million for Comcast's Universal Pictures to finish ninth. A band of Ronin set out in the film to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.

BoxOffice.com projected revenue of $14.2 million. The movie garnered a 12 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com

"Grudge Match" features Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro as aging boxing rivals coaxed out of retirement to fight one more time. The film took in $7.3 million for Warner Bros. in 11th place. It received a 21 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com

"Justin Bieber's Believe," a documentary about the pop music star, opened 14th with $2 million for Open Road Films, the U.S. distributor, against a projection of $5.5 million by BoxOffice.com.

Among returning films, the animated feature "Frozen," about two estranged princesses in an icy world, attracted sales of $28.8 million for Walt Disney to place second in its sixth weekend.

"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," the TV newscaster spoof starring Will Ferrell, collected $20.2 million in its second weekend for Paramount to place third.

"American Hustle," a fictionalized account of a 1970s scandal, took in $19.6 million for Sony in its third weekend to place fourth. The movie, featuring Christian Bale, was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards.

Weekend revenue for the top 10 films rose 10 percent to $171.4 million from the year-earlier period, Rentrak said. Domestic box-office sales this year total $10.77 billion, up almost 1 percent from the same period last year and are on track to surpass the 2012 total of $10.81 billion.

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With assistance from Dan Hart

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