The highly anticipated, hotly promoted "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" fell significantly short of its box-office expectations, failing to wrest the No. 1 spot from Warner Bros.' "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which pulled in $31.5 million.
Paramount Pictures' sequel to 2004's comedy cult classic, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," which stars Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and Christina Applegate, was expected to generate between $30 million and $35 million over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but instead came in at a studio-estimated $26.8 million.
The original had a $28.4-million opening weekend, so this latest tale about a sexist San Diego anchorman from the 1970s, is not tracking as well with audiences, even though the film earned a respectable B rating from CinemaScore, which polls moviegoers on opening night, and a 76% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Thanks to Wednesday-night screenings and a Thursday opening (which the original "Anchorman" did not enjoy) "Anchorman 2" pulled in $40 million total over five days. Its budget was $50 million.
Sony's Oscar contender "American Hustle," starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, had a strong inaugural wide-release weekend, making a solid $19.1 million and coming close to unseating Disney's animated family hit "Frozen" from the No. 3 spot. ("Frozen" generated $19.2 million.)
Directed by David O. Russell, "American Hustle" is about a 1970s con man forced to work with the FBI. The critical darling has a B-plus CinemaScore and a 94% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has been nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, including best picture, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, including outstanding performance by a cast.
The film, Russell's biggest wide-release ever, enjoyed an opening weekend comparable to that of Ben Affleck's "Argo," which opened last year with $19.5 million and went on to win an Academy Award for best picture.
"It truly is one of those films that not only got a great start but is going to build in the weeks and months to come, all the way up to the awards," said Rory Bruer, Sony's president of worldwide distribution, on Sunday. "It's really just resonating with everyone."
Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks," which also opened wide this weekend, claimed the No. 5 spot with $9.3 million. The film stars Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson and tells the story of how the children's classic "Mary Poppins" came to be. It is also generating awards buzz.
The Spike Jonze film "Her," starring Joaquin Phoenix as a writer who falls in love with his digital operating system, had a promising limited opening, making $258,000 in three days in six locations, or $43,000 per location.
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