‘Hobbit’ sequel is top film again; ‘Anchorman 2’ finishes second

LOS ANGELES — “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” collected $31.5 million for Time Warner and MGM to lead U.S. and Canadian ticket sales for a second straight weekend.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” the TV newscaster spoof starring Will Ferrell, opened second with $26.8 million, Rentrak said Sunday in a statement. Two widely publicized films, Sony’s “American Hustle” and Walt Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” expanded to more theaters and finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Hobbit” outdueled “Anchorman 2” in the face of a marketing campaign, which in addition to the usual television and radio appearances by the cast, included Ferrell doing a commercial in character for Chrysler’s Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicle. The movie was forecast to generate $45 million in receipts for Paramount, the projection of BoxOffice.com.

“It was a solid start for ‘Anchorman,’ but there were some pretty high expectations based on the first ‘Anchorman,’” said Brandon Gray, an independent box-office analyst and former president of Box Office Mojo, an industry tracker.

“People were definitely aware of the movie, but making a comedy sequel is harder than for an action movie,” he said. “Even massive media coverage won’t necessarily translate into people flocking to theaters.”

In “Anchorman 2,” former “Saturday Night Live” star Ferrell returns as Ron Burgundy, a top-rated San Diego newsman from the 1970s. In the new installment, Burgundy heads to New York to start the first-ever 24-hour news channel.

Co-stars Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner reprise their roles, with Applegate now as Burgundy’s spouse and the others as weatherman, reporter and sports correspondent.

“Anchorman 2” was produced for about $50 million, according to IMDB.com, another industry researcher.

The original “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” released in July 2004, produced opening weekend sales of $28.4 million, according to the website Box Office Mojo, and went on to generate $85.3 million in domestic sales.

“Hobbit” is Peter Jackson’s fifth film based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The first “Hobbit” and three “Lord of the Rings” movies from 2001 to 2003 generated more than $3.9 billion in global box-office sales.

Martin Freeman returns as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in “The Desolation of Smaug.” Ian McKellen reprises Gandalf, the wizard he portrayed in the first Hobbit film and the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The movie picks up where the last one ended, with Baggins, Gandalf and their dwarf friends continuing the quest to reclaim their homeland, Erebor, from the dragon Smaug, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

“American Hustle,” which finished fourth, collected sales of $19.1 million for Sony as the film, nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, expanded nationwide.

The movie, a fictionalized account of the Abscam scandal of the late 1970s, features Christian Bale as con man Irving Rosenfeld, who was forced to participate in an FBI sting operation. The film was forecast to generate weekend sales of $19 million, according to BoxOffice.com.

The cast includes Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner. It was produced at an estimated cost of $40 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Also expanding to more theaters this weekend was Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” which collected sales of $9.3 million. Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney, working to convince author P.L. Travers to let him produce a film based on her novel “Mary Poppins.”

For two weeks in 1961, Disney mounts an all-out effort to win over Travers, played by Emma Thompson. “Saving Mr. Banks” was expected to produce $12 million in weekend sales, the forecast of BoxOffice.com. The film was made for an estimated $35 million, according to Box Office Mojo.