UK Box Office

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

Exactly a year ago, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened in the UK with £9.51m, plus £2.1m in previews. Many critics carped that the film didn’t live up to Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and sounded a note of scepticism over the innovative 48 frames-per-second projection. Still, audiences continued to embrace the film, and a final gross of £52.33m represented a healthy 5.5 multiple of the opening number – a relatively high ratio for a Hollywood blockbuster.

Now sequel The Desolation of Smaug arrives with a very similar £9.32m, slightly down on the original. A better Metacritic score of 66/100 (as opposed to 58/100 for Unexpected Journey) suggests that the film has found an easier ride from critics, and an IMDb user rating of 8.5/10 (8.0/10 for the earlier film) might indicate similar greater enthusiasm among cinemagoers. (A word of caution: the eager postings of early adopters can give an initial boost to IMDb user ratings, which then gradually decline as more film fans weigh in with their verdicts.)

Among films released in 2012, An Unexpected Journey ended up as the third-highest grosser, behind only Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises. So far in 2013, the top title is Despicable Me 2, with £47.2m. Since no film has managed £50m this year (in 2012, there were four that passed that milestone), this means that The Desolation of Smaug has every chance of becoming the year’s top grosser – although of course it won’t achieve this feat by 31 December. All will depend on how audiences respond to Smaug, and whether it can achieve a sustained, robust run like the one delivered by An Unexpected Journey.

The runner-up

With family films for the festive season, it’s not so much about the opening weekend as the full period up to Christmas Eve: virtually the whole of December can be golden. And that looks very much set to be the case with the animated film Frozen. Having opened the previous frame with an impressive £4.7m, the Disney flick has delivered a sensational second session of £4.21m – a decline of just 11%. Among family films this year, not even Despicable Me 2 managed second-weekend takings above £4m.

After 10 days, Frozen has clocked up a very handy £10.3m, which compares with a similar £10.52m for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph at the same stage of its run, and £8.63m for Monsters University. Those films achieved final tallies of £23.78m and £30.64m respectively, and Disney will be hoping that Frozen lands at a similar place. And since there is no particular plot connection between Frozen and the Christmas holiday, there is no reason why the film couldn’t continue to engage audiences beyond 25 December and into wintry January.

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