To no one's surprise, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" laid waste to the competition at the box office on Friday, earning an estimated $31 million.
Starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf, the 3-D "Hobbit" sequel is expected to take in around $80 million in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday according to pre-release audience surveys.
The second of a three-part prequel to Jackson's wildly successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the film has earned some positive notice from critics with a 74% score on the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. This is a better showing than the trilogy's first installment, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which earned a score of 65%.
The weekend's other debut in wide release, "Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas," is thus far on track for a distant second place on the charts with an estimated $5.7 million in ticket sales. The film marks Perry's eighth Madea movie with the studio Lionsgate. It is expected to earn $28 million by the weekend's close.
Among the season's previous box-office champions, the Disney animated film "Frozen," earned an estimated $5.1 million on Friday to place it on track for third place, and the colossal hit "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" took home an estimated $4.1 million, which placed it very close to topping the $350-million mark in total earnings.
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