‘The Hobbit’ wins third straight weekend at box office

A scene from 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.'. Handout

NEW YORK — Hollywood kicked off the New Year on a positive note, with three films vying closely for the weekend box-office title that nevertheless remained with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies for the third straight week.

Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth finale took in $21.9 million for in North American theatres, according to studio estimates Sunday, narrowly edging out the musical Into the Woods ($19.1 million) and Angelina Jolie’s World War II tale Unbroken ($18.4 million).

The weekend’s lone new wide-release, the horror sequel The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, landed in fourth place with $15.1 million.

Fifth place belonged to the Vancouver-shot Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which earned another $14.5 million.

The first weekend of 2015 gave Hollywood the chance to begin turning the page on a rough 2014 in which box-office revenue slid five per cent and attendance dropped to its lowest level in nearly 20 years.

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In its second week of limited release, The Interview earned an estimated $1.1 million theatrically.

In its first four days of online streaming and sale, the comedy made $15 million, Sony Pictures said last week. Since then, the film has expanded to video-on-demand via cable operators and on more digital platforms like Apple’s iTunes.

Several Oscar contenders began to attract larger numbers of moviegoers, as Hollywood’s awards season picks up stream. The Golden Globes are Sunday, Jan. 11.

Playing at 754 theaters, The Imitation Game, a code-breaker thriller about World War II hero Alan Turing, took in $8.1 million in its sixth week. (By comparison, The Hobbit played at more than 3,800 theaters.) The Reese Witherspoon drama Wild also added $4.5 million for a five-week $25.8 million total.

Opening in limited release at four locations, New York thriller A Most Violent Year debuted with a theatre average of $47,000. The acclaimed release, starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, will soon expand.

Demand, though, was strongest for American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s drama about Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). In its second week playing in just four theaters, American Sniper attracted a remarkable $160,000 per-screen-average. The film opens wide on Jan. 16.

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