Weekend Report (cont.): Huge Limited Debuts for 'American Sniper,' 'Selma'
<< Continued from "Weekend Report: 'Hobbit,' 'Unbroken,' 'Into the Woods' Score in Final Weekend of 2014"

Playing at 2,440 theaters, Into the Woods opened to an estimated $31 million this weekend. Including its Christmas Day gross, the Disney musical has so far earned $46.1 million.

That opening is generally in line with 2012's Les Miserables, which took in $48.8 million over its first four days and $27.3 million on its first weekend. The three-day weekend ranks third all-time for a musical behind High School Musical 3: Senior Year and Enchanted.

Into the Woods had a lot working in its favor. The fantasy elements aligned nicely with the Disney brand, which is very popular right now on the heels of Frozen and Maleficent. The source material is also a favorite for musical theater fans, and this seemed like a reasonably faithful adaptation. It also helps that the movie had a stacked cast that included Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick.

The movie's audience was 54 percent female and 55 percent were 25 years of age or older. It received a "B" CinemaScore, which isn't particularly good for a family-friendly movie. If it plays like Les Miserables from here, it will close with around $140 million.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb earned an estimated $20.6 million in its second outing. That's up 21 percent from last weekend, which is a really strong week-to-week gain (even for this time of year). To date, the final chapter in the Night at the Museum franchise has taken in $55.3 million, and it now appears poised to close with $100-million-plus.

Annie (2014) added $16.6 million, which is up five percent from opening weekend. The musical remake has now earned $45.8 million, and remains on track to close with over $80 million.

Playing at 2,478 theaters, The Gambler opened in seventh place with a weak $9.3 million ($14.3 million including Christmas Day). In comparison, The Wolf of Wall Street took in over $18 million on the same weekend last year. With poor word-of-mouth ("C+" CinemaScore), mixed reviews, and no awards prospects, this is going to burn off quickly; it's highly unlikely that it tops $50 million in the long run.

The Imitation Game expanded to 747 theaters on Christmas Day, and went on to earn an excellent $7.93 million over the three-day weekend. Compare that to The King's Speech, which earned $4.5 million over its first weekend in nationwide release (also at Christmas). With many awards nominations on the way, the World War II code-breaking drama will almost certainly earn over $50 million total.

Playing at 1,307 theaters, Tim Burton's Big Eyes opened to a disappointing $2.99 million this weekend ($4.4 million four-day). In the long run, this could wrap up under $20 million.

The Interview opened at 331 theaters and earned $1.81 million this weekend ($2.85 million including Christmas Day). The controversial Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy wasn't playing at any of the major theater chains (AMC, Regal, etc.), but was available to rent for $6 on YouTube and Xbox Live.

Debuting at four locations, American Sniper took in an estimated $610,000 this weekend ($850,000 including Christmas Day). That translates to an exceptional $152,500 per-theater average, which ranks 11th all-time. More impressively, it ranks second all-time for a live-action movie at more than one location, behind March's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Sniper expands nationwide on January 16th.

Selma opened at 19 locations and earned an estimated $590,000. While that's less than Sniper, it's still a rock solid result (a $31,053 per-theater average is quite good). The civil rights drama—which also functions as a Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic—expands nationwide on January 9th. With exceptional reviews and strong awards prospects, this will likely be a major player in the new year.

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Last Weekend

'Hobbit' Emerges Victorious in Final Box Office 'Battle'

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2013 - 'Hobbit,' 'Frozen' Top 'Wolf,' 'Mitty' on Final Weekend of 2013

• 2012 - 'Hobbit' Holds Off 'Django' on Final Weekend of 2012

• 2011 - No Stopping 'M:I-4' Over New Year's

• 2010 - 'Fockers' Frowned Upon, 'Grit' Glowers Over New Year's

• 2009 - Christmas Booms with 'Avatar,' 'Sherlock,' 'Alvin'

• 2008 - 'Marley' Retrieves Box Office Luster Over Christmas

• 2007 - 'Museum' Exhibits Holiday Clout

• 2005 - 'Chronicles' Conk Out 'King' on New Year's Weekend

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