The new year at the box office is off to a solid start thanks to holiday holdovers and newcomer “The Woman in Black 2: The Angel of Death.”
This weekend films pulled in an estimated $153 million, up 8.4% from the first weekend of last year, and the box office is up 5.5% year-to-date, according to research firm Rentrak.
The third and final installment of "The Hobbit” series topped the box office for the third weekend in a row, according to studio estimates.
New Line and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” made $21.9 million, raising its total haul in the U.S. and Canada to $220.8 million.
The Peter Jackson film, based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, earned a 61% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an A- grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore.
Disney's "Into the Woods" came in second for the weekend with $19.1 million, and Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken” came in third with $18.4 million.
The musical "Into the Woods," directed by Rob Marshall and starring Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp, has made $91.2 million in the U.S. and Canada.
The film has been propelled by mostly-positive reviews and received a B grade from CinemaScore. It also has landed three Golden Globe nominations.
"Unbroken," based on Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 nonfiction bestseller about Olympic runner turned war hero Louis Zamperini, received mixed reviews from critics, but audiences gave it an A- on CinemaScore. The Universal-distributed film cost about $65 million to make and has made $87.8 million to date.
"The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death" opened this weekend in fourth place with about $15.1 million.
Relativity Studios acquired the film, a sequel to the 2012 movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, for just $1 million. It exceeded projections of $9 million to $11 million for opening weekend.
“I think early January has proven to be a really good place to position a horror movie,” said Kyle Davies, Relativity’s president of worldwide distribution.
The Tom Harper-directed film follows a group of orphaned children who are forced to move from their home in London to the British countryside. The film stars Jeremy Irvine ("War Horse") and Helen McCrory ("Skyfall").
About 65% of moviegoers were younger than 25, and 53% were female.
“I think there was a pent-up demand for a horror film,” Davies said. “This picture appealed to that core audience and they came out in big numbers for us.”
Audiences gave the film a C rating on CinemaScore. The film received a 24% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“We really feel this was its own movie,” Davies added.
Twentieth Century Fox’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” rounded out the top five with $14.5 million. It has made almost $90 million since its Dec. 19 launch.
Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Entertainment rolled out its Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy "The Interview" to more independent theaters. In its second weekend, it grossed $1.1 million and raised its theatrical total to about $4.9 million.
The studio released the film in 331 theaters on Christmas Day, and this weekend that number rose to 581. Sony also began offering the movie on video-on-demand platforms on Christmas Eve.
Updated video-on-demand grosses were not yet available but Sony reported the film had made more than $15 million on alternative platforms through Dec. 27.
For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h