Box Office: ‘Hobbit’ Wins Christmas Lead-Up With $31.5 Mil; ‘Anchorman 2′ Bows to $26.8 Mil

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In the lead-up to one of the busiest times at the box office, audiences certainly spread around the Christmas cheer this weekend, as Warner Bros.’ “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” continued its reign on top with an estimated $31.5 million Friday-Sunday, while Paramount’s new entry “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” followed with a solid $26.8 million in three days.

Paramount bowed “Anchorman 2″ midweek to give it a leg-up on the competition; pic has grossed $40 million since late night Tuesday.

The comedy sequel, which received a serviceable ‘B’ CinemaScore rating, had some B.O. observers predicting a slightly larger three-day gross in the low-$30 millions, though the crowded marketplace, added to the preoccupied nature of people around this time may have slowed the film down some. That said, films released at around Christmastime usually outperform their openings greater than any other time of year. A reasonable domestic outcome for “Anchorman 2″ would be around $125 million-plus, based on its three-day opening.

Internationally, “Anchorman 2,” with $13.4 million, already has more than doubled what the first film made overseas — and from just six territories. Not surprisingly, leading the charge were the U.K. and Australia (the comedy will have a tougher time expanding to non-English speaking countries).

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