NEW YORK -- On a busy pre-Christmas weekend at the box office, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug held off a very different sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Peter Jackson's Hobbit sequel took in $31.5 million in its second weekend of release for Warner Bros. (TWX), according to studio estimates Sunday. That topped Will Ferrell's Anchorman sequel, which nevertheless opened strongly in second place. The Paramount Pictures (VIA) comedy made $26.8 million over the three-day weekend and $40 million since opening Tuesday night.
The much-marketed Anchorman 2 actually outperformed The Hobbit (which has now passed $300 million worldwide) on Friday, but failed to best it over Saturday and Sunday. But the $50 million comedy, which Paramount initially turned down, also suggested it will be more popular abroad than most comedies. It made $13.4 million in six international markets.
The 2004 original opened with $28.4 million, but only grossed $5.3 million internationally.
"Anchorman will have a much larger footprint internationally than the last Anchorman did," said Don Harris, head of domestic distribution for Paramount. "Will Ferrell has done a really good job of turning this character into something that travels around the world."
David O. Russell's fictionalization of the 1970s Abscam investigation American Hustle earned a robust $19.1 million in its first week of nationwide expansion. The Sony Pictures film, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, got a boost from its co-leading seven Golden Globes nominations.
"It's such a crowd-pleaser as well as a critical hit," said Sony's distribution head Rory Bruer. "We have so much more to look forward to, including Christmas Day."