Disney’s animated musical Frozen has turned into one of this year’s biggest hits thanks to tremendous word-of-mouth that has returned the family-oriented film to the number one spot in its sixth weekend of wide release.  This week’s only newcomer the fifth "found footage" film in the Paranormal Activity series, posted the lowest opening of any film in the franchise, but it will still be enough to secure second place on the list, pushing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug down to third place.  Overall the total of the top 12 films was up 6.2% from the same weekend last year when the horror film Texas Chainsaw 3D opened with $21.7 million.
Frozen, which was released over Thanksgiving, dropped just 27.5% as it earned an estimated $20.7 million and drove its domestic cumulative to $297.8 million.  Frozen, which is actually in its sixth week of wide release, is demonstrating incredible "legs" trailing only legendary box office "longevity kings" Avatar and Titanic in its sixth week totals. Frozen is also doing well overseas and now has a worldwide cumulative of $640 million.  Frozen is now Disney Animation’s second highest-grossing title trailing only The Lion King
Targeted at the increasingly important Hispanic audience, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones debuted with an estimated $18.2 million, which is way below the $29 million debut of Paranormal Activity 4.  It appears that the bloom is finally coming off the "found footage" horror film rose and Paranormal Activity franchise fatigue is becoming a definite factor, though it should be said that The Marked Ones spin-off departs from the franchise’s traditional haunted house format in favor of a plot based on demonic possession and exorcism.  And don’t cry for producers of The Marked Ones, the film cost just $5 million to make, which also means that "found footage" horror films will, thanks to their extremely low cost, endure until their popularity level reaches that of fire ants.

Weekend Box Office (Studio Estimates): January 3-5, 2014



Weekend Gross




Total Gross










Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones







The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug







The Wolf of Wall Street







American Hustle







Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues







Saving Mr. Banks







The Secret Life of Walter Mitty







The Hunger Games: Catching Fire







Grudge Match






The Marked Ones is the first film in the Paranormal franchise to open in January, but the first month of the year tends to be pretty fertile ground for horror films, so it’s no excuse for the film’s disappointing debut.  The R-rated The Marked Ones attracted an opening weekend audience that was evenly split between the sexes, and not surprisingly was very much on the youthful side with 68% under 25.  The big problem for the movie could be its very poor "C-" CinemaScore (low CinemaScores appear to affect horror movies less than some other genres, but "C-" is a very bad score).
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug dropped a modest 44% as it earned $16.3 million and drove its domestic cumulative to $229.6 million.  Despite better reviews, Jackson’s second Hobbit film has no chance of catching its predecessor’s domestic total of $303 million.  However it continues to do well overseas as it topped the worldwide box office with $58 million earned outside North America.  The question is, will it do well enough outside the U.S. to join the first Hobbit film in the exclusive $1 billion club?  We will have to wait until March to know for sure, since the film opens in February in Japan and China, and will likely have to do very well in those markets to make it to a billion.
Some films that aren’t horror movies do occasionally triumph over bad CinemaScores.  Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street got the dreaded "C" grade from its opening weekend audience, but it declined just 27% in its second frame as it earned an estimated $13.4 million.  The critics liked Scorsese’s movie, which currently has a 75% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that definitely helps with the older crowd the film targets, who generally takes their time getting to movies anyway.  It should be interesting to see if The Wolf can continue its strong box office run, especially since there are a number of other high quality "serious" films in theaters now.
David O. Russell’s American Hustle, which earned an estimated $13.2 million, is certainly one of those movies.  In its third weekend of wide release, American Hustle dropped just 29.5% as it brought its domestic cumulative to $88.7 million.  The film should be over the $100 million mark even before Oscar nominations are announced on January 16th.
The Will Ferrell comedy sequel Anchorman 2 dropped 43.5% as it earned an estimated $11.1 million, which brought its three-week total to $109.2 million. 
Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks dropped just 32.7% as it earned an estimated $9 million and the Ben Stiller version of James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty slipped 35.8% as it earned $8.2 million and landed in eighth place.
Ninth place went to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which fell just 26.5% as it earned $7.4 million to bring its domestic total to $407.5 million.  Sometime this week Catching Fire will surpass Iron Man 3 and become the highest grossing film released in 2013 (though it didn’t earn all of that money during calendar 2013, and Catching Fire has no chance of matching IM3’s $1.2 billion worldwide total).
Propelled by a major TV ad campaign the geriatric boxing comedy Grudge Match managed to move up from #11 last week to #10 as it earned an estimated $5.4.  The $40 million production doesn’t appear to have a chance, but Warner Bros. is trying to limit the losses.
The same damage control mode is in operation at Universal with 47 Ronin, which slipped out of the top ten in its second weekend of release.  The massively expensive ($175 million) samurai fantasy is doing better overseas (especially in Russia where it made an impressive $13.1 million debut), but in spite of an overseas total of $51.3 million, the film doesn’t appear to have a chance to make up for its enormous cost.
Check back next week to see if newcomers including the fantasy film The Legend of Hercules and military drama Lone Survivor can top a strong list of holdover titles.