By Jake Coyle
NEW YORK -- In its second weekend at the box office, the Disney (DIS) animated tale Frozen finally cooled off The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, while the week's lone new wide-release Out of the Furnace wasn't a match for either blockbuster.
According to studio estimates Sunday, Frozen led the multiplexes with a haul of $31.6 million over the weekend, taking over the top spot from Catching Fire. Lionsgate's (LGF) Hunger Games sequel had topped the box office for the last two weeks, but slid to second with $27 million in its third week of release.
Relativity Media's steel-town drama Out of the Furnace, starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, posed no challenge for the bigger blockbuster holdovers. It opened with $5.3 million, good enough for third place on what's typically a quiet early December weekend, sandwiched between Thanksgiving and the coming holiday season releases.
But it was an excellent weekend for Hollywood, with box office up 16.9% over the same weekend last year. Opening in a limited release of four theaters, the Coen brothers' folk tale Inside Llewyn Davis also had one of the year's highest per-theater averages of $100,500 for CBS Films (CBS).
With only a handful of movie-going weeks left in the year, the strong weekend boosts the year's chances of exceeding 2012's record box office. This year may surpass last year's $10.8 billion domestic box office, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak.
"We're running just slightly ahead of last year's record pace," said Dergarabedian. "It's going to be really close."
Dergarabedian expects next week's big release, Warner Bros.' (TWX) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, to open in the neighborhood of Peter Jackson's first Hobbit film, An Unexpected Journey, which debuted with $84.6 million last year. This weekend's new releases were minimal since The Hobbit is expected to dominate the marketplace next weekend.
Both Frozen and Catching Fire continued to show legs around the world. Catching Fire added $44.3 million internationally, bringing its global cumulative total to $673.4 million over four weeks. With many millions still to come, Catching Fire has already almost equaled the $691.2 million worldwide of the 2012 original.
Frozen, too, has found strong business abroad. It added $30.6 million internationally over the weekend.
In its second week of limited release, the Weinstein Co.'s (TWC) biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring Idris Elba, continued to play in four theaters, earning an average of $19,400 per-theater. The Weinstein Co. has said it's not altering the movie's release following the death of South African leader Nelson Mandela on Thursday. Mandela opens wide on Christmas.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak (RENT). Where available, latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1."Frozen," $31.6 million ($30.6 million international).
2."The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $27 million ($44.3 million international).
3."Out of the Furnace," $5.3 million.
4."Thor: The Dark World," $4.7 million ($5.4 million international).
5."Delivery Man," $3.8 million.
6."Homefront," $3.4 million ($1.5 million international).
7."The Book Thief," $2.7 million.
8."The Best Man Holiday," $2.7 million.
9."Philomena," $2.3 million.
10."Dallas Buyers Club," $1.5 million.
Estimated weekend ticket sales Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $44.3 million.
2. "Frozen," $30.6 million.
3. "The Four 2," $13 million.
4. "No Man's Land," $11 million.
5. "Gravity," $10.7 million.
6. "The White Storm," $8 million.
7. "Captain Phillips," $6.2 million.
8. "Carrie," $6 million.
9. "Thor: The Dark World," $5.4 million.
10. "About Time," $4.6 million.