Wolf falls behind Hobbit in box office pack

Last updated 10:36 31/12/2013
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Martin Scorsese's Wall Street-gone-wild epic, "The Wolf of Wall Street", wasn't the leader of the United States box-office pack over the holiday weekend.

The alpha film was "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which topped the charts for the third consecutive week. The second part of Warner Bros.' "Hobbit" trilogy based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien racked up US$29.9 million over three days, while Paramount's "Wolf," which cost US$100 million to make, brought in US$18.5 million.

The latter had been expected to challenge "Smaug" for the top spot. Instead it came in at No. 5. Disney's animated family-pleaser "Frozen" finished second, pulling in a cool US$28.8 million and bringing its total gross over nearly six weeks to an impressive US$248 million. Paramount's Will Ferrell comedy "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" rallied after a lukewarm start last weekend to finish at No. 3 with US$20.2 million. The David O. Russell-directed Oscar contender "American Hustle" finished fourth, taking in a solid US$19.6 million for Sony in its second week of wide release.

"Wolf," which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a crooked New York stockbroker and opened in New Zealand on Boxing Day, received a dismal, and surprising, grade of "C" by US audiences, according to CinemaScore, which tracks moviegoers' reactions on opening night. But critical reception has been warm as indicated by a 74 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the film has been buoyed by two Golden Globe nominations, for best picture (musical or comedy) and lead actor.

The film, which opened on Christmas, made US$34.3 million over its first five days of release, which was a touch more than Paramount estimated.

"Our movie has controversial content in it, so it's very water-cooler. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about it," Megan Colligan, head of domestic marketing and distribution for Paramount, said. "It's a movie that people will keep on finding. It also has a great shot with the academy, which will give it a whole new round of life."

The film's racy sexual content is what has audiences talking, Colligan said, and the opening proves American moviegoers have not tired of tales about stock market shenanigans.

The performance of Universal Pictures' "47 Ronin," which stars Keanu Reeves as a revenge-minded samurai among a mostly Japanese cast, left much to be desired. That film, which cost an estimated US$175 million to make and has been lambasted by critics, scared up just US$9.9 million for the No. 9 spot.

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Another big-budget release that struggled was 20th Century Fox's long-awaited comedy "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," directed by and starring Ben Stiller. It cost US$91 million but made only US$13 million to claim the No. 7 spot.

The film is based on a two-page story by James Thurber that was published in the New Yorker in 1939, and it has been accused by critics of stretching its material too thin.

With awards season already underway, word of mouth is heating up for Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks," which tells the story of how "Mary Poppins" came to be. It earned US$14 million to place just above "Walter Mitty."

Spike Jonze's "Her," about a man who falls in love with his computer operating system, is also on the Oscar watch list. It squeaked into the top 20 with US$645,000 from 47 US theatres.

The final crop of 2013 films made this year a record-breaking one. The box office is poised to close out the year with US$10.9 billion in ticket sales, exceeding last year's record take of US$10.8 billion.

- LA TIMES (MCT)

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