December 21, 2014 / 5:48 PM / 3 years ago

Final 'Hobbit' film draws holiday season crowds at box office

Cast members Lee Pace and Evangeline Lilly (L) pose at the premiere of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" at Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California December 9, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The last movie of Peter Jackson’s three “Hobbit” films rode to the top of U.S. and Canadian weekend box office charts, selling an estimated $56.2 million worth of tickets and boosting the holiday movie season that is crucial to Hollywood.

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” grabbed another $34.4 million from Wednesday and Thursday screenings for a combined debut of $90.6 million over its first five days, distributor Warner Bros. said on Sunday.

“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” featuring the final on-screen performance by the late Robin Williams, finished second at domestic theaters with $17.3 million from Friday through Sunday, according to tracking firm Rentrak’s estimates.

Third place for the weekend before Christmas went to the musical remake “Annie”, which had been stolen by hackers who attacked the Sony movie studio’s computer network and placed on online piracy sites three weeks ago. “Annie” earned $16.3 million at domestic theaters.

“The Hobbit” stars Martin Freeman in the story based on the classic fantasy novel by J.R.R. Tolkien.

“Night at the Museum”, the third in the series about exhibits that come to life, features Ben Stiller as a nighttime security guard and Williams as Teddy Roosevelt.

“This is an incredible result, and a nice distraction from everything that’s been going on for the past couple of weeks, to have this enormous success going into the holiday season,” said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc.

Warner Bros.’ New Line Cinema and MGM produced the film, which Goldstein said took in about $10 million more over five days than the studio had expected.

“Night at the Museum” added $10.8 from foreign showings.

Quvenzhane Wallis plays the title character in “Annie”, a contemporary remake of the 1977 Broadway musical about an orphaned girl.

Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony’s movie studio, said the hackers’ release of the film “certainly doesn’t seem like it hurt (box office performance), as we did so well.”

Biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” finished fourth for the weekend with $8.1 million. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1” took the No. 5 spot with $7.8 million.

“Night at the Museum” and “Exodus” were released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of 21st Century Fox. Lions Gate Entertainment Corp distributed “Mockingjay”.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud, editing by David Evans

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