The alpha film was "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which topped the charts for the third time in as many weeks of wide release. The second part of the "Hobbit" trilogy based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien racked up $29.9 million over three days, while Paramount's "Wolf," which cost $100 million to make, made a meager $18.5 million.
The latter's performance was particularly disappointing as it was expected to challenge Warner Bros. tale of strife in Middle-earth for the top spot. Instead, it came in at No. 5, just after Sony's David O. Russell-directed Oscar contender "American Hustle," which pulled in a solid $19.6 million in its second week of wide release.
"Wolf's" stock plummeted further based on viewer esteem. The film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a crooked New York City stockbroker, was given the dismal, and surprising, grade of "C" by audiences, according to CinemaScore, which tracks moviegoers' reactions on opening night. Critical reception has been warm but not too welcoming as indicated by a 74% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Still, this last number is solid and the film has already been nominated for two Golden Globe awards, best picture and lead actor. It also made $34.3 million over the five days it has been in release, which was a touch more than Paramount estimated it would.
"Our movie has controversial content in it, so it's very water-cooler. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about it," said Megan Colligan, head of domestic marketing and distribution for Paramount, on Sunday. "It’s a movie that people will keep on finding. It also has a great shot with the academy, which will give it a whole new round of life."
Colligan feels that if anything is shocking people about the film it's the racy sexual content, not American fatigue with the sore subject of stock market shenanigans. The film is a black comedy that soundly condemns the kind of behavior that resulted in the most recent market meltdown.
Rounding the weekend bend at No. 2 is Disney's animated family-pleaser "Frozen," which pulled in a cool $28.8 million. This brings its cumulative gross over nearly six weeks to an impressive $248 million.
The performance of Universal Picture's "47 Ronin," which stars Keanu Reeves as a revenge-minded samurai alongside an all-Japanese cast, left much to be desired. That film, which cost a whopping $175 million to make, scared up a dismal $9.9 million for the No. 9 spot.
The film is also being lambasted by critics. it recieved a 12% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Another big-budget release that failed to take flight was 20th Century Fox's long-awaited comedy "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," directed by and starring Ben Stiller. It cost $91 million but made only $13 million to claim the No. 7 spot at the box office.
The film is based on a two-page short story by James Thurber that was published in the New Yorker in 1939, and has been accused by critics of stretching its material way too thin.
With awards season already underway, word of mouth is heating up for Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks," which tells the story of how the film "Mary Poppins" came to be. It earned $14 million to place just above "Walter Mitty" on the charts.
All told, the final crop of 2013 films made this year a record-breaking one at the box office. The year is poised to break last year's record of $10.8 billion in ticket sales by close to 1%, making a $10.9 billion year end within sight.