“Unbroken,” “Into the Woods” and the final “Hobbit” film gave Hollywood something to be merry about over Christmas weekend.
The success of these films and the staying power of “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” and “Annie” was surprising given that this holiday season faced unprecedented headwinds. Some of these pictures, such as “Unbroken” with its brutal depiction of life in Japan’s World War II prison camps, and “Into the Woods” with a body count to rival “The Sopranos,” fall short of being typical yuletide confections.
It also unfolded against the chaotic rollout of “The Interview,” an R-rated comedy that suffered a terrorist threat, cancelation and subsequent revival. Ultimately, the film about an assassination plot on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had a jerry-rigged release across 331 art house and independent theaters, where it earned $2.8 million, as well as digital platforms such as YouTube and Google Play. Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film, did not say how much it generated from its on-demand venues.
Despite those challenges, the overall box office will be up over last year’s Christmas period. How much is unclear until final numbers are tallied.
Once again it was Peter Jackson and his Middle Earth finale that cast the biggest shadow, as “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” marched to $41.4 million in its second weekend in theaters. The New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer coproduction has picked up $168.5 million domestically.
“Unbroken,” Angelina Jolie’s account of Olympian Louis Zamperini’s harrowing efforts to survive his bomber plane’s ocean crash and later interment by the Japanese army, picked up $31.7 million across 3,131 locations this weekend. The Universal release cost $65 million to produce and has brought in $47.3 million since debuting on Christmas.
“Unbroken” scored the third highest Christmas weekend opening ever and attracted an audience that was 71% over the age of 25 and 52% female. It arrived at that impressive number despite lacking a big name star among the cast.
In contrast, “Into the Woods” got a lift from a star heavy crew that includes Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick. Its origins as a hit Broadway musical may have helped pack in older crowds for whom Stephen Sondheim is close to godliness, while Walt Disney Studios was also able to devise a fantastical marketing campaign to appeal to children and families. The $60 million production brought in $31 million from locations, securing third place on the box office charts. It has made $46.1 million since debuting on Thursday.
Among family film holdovers, Fox’s “Night at the Museum” sequel pulled in $20.6 million, pushing its total to $55.3 million.
Sony’s “Annie” made $16.6 million, a 5 percent jump from its debut. The musical remake has earned $45.8 million since debuting on Dec. 19.
The week’s other wide release, “The Gambler,” was dwarfed by the competition, earning $9.1 million for the weekend from 2,478 locations. The Paramount release cost a modest $25 million to produce and has made $14 million since opening on Christmas.
Best Picture contender “The Imitation Game” rode Oscar buzz to strong box office as it expanded from 34 theaters to 747 theaters, earning $10.6 million over the weekend. The Weinstein Company film about code breaker Alan Turing has made $14.7 million in five weeks of release.
The studio was less successful with its other Christmas release. “Big Eyes,” the story of painter Margaret Keane and her huckster husband, earned roughly $3 million from 1,307 locations. It has made a meagre $4.4 million since debuting on Christmas.
In limited release, “American Sniper” picked up an impressive $850,000 for the four-day period. That’s an $212,500 per-screen average.