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By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK, Jan 4 (Reuters) - The last of Peter Jackson’s three “Hobbit” films rode to a third straight weekend atop box office charts, selling an estimated $21.9 million in tickets at U.S. and Canadian theaters.
Disney’s film version of the dark Broadway musical “Into The Woods” claimed the No. 2 spot with $19.1 million, while the World War Two drama “Unbroken”, directed by Angelina Jolie, finished third with $18.4 million for the Friday through Sunday period.
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” grabbed another $9.3 million from New Year’s Day screenings for a four-day take through Sunday of $31.2 million, and has a domestic total of $220.8 million since its Dec. 17 release, according to estimates from tracking firm Rentrak.
The new year’s first weekend numbers spelled some welcome news for film studios, with total ticket sales up 8.4 percent from 2014’s initial weekend.
The weekend’s sole new release, horror film “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,” opened in fourth place with $15.1 million, while another sequel, “Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb” rounded out the top five with $14.5 million in ticket sales.
“Unbroken,” Jolie’s second directorial effort, tells the real-life story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s two years as a prisoner of war in Japan.
“Into The Woods,” an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical that puts a spin on children’s fairy tales, stars Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Johnny Depp and has grossed $91.2 million since opening on Christmas Day.
“The Interview,” the provocative comedy blamed for triggering a massive cyberattack on Sony’s movie studio, which then canceled its wide Christmas Day release, took in $1.1 million at theaters after Sony nearly doubled the number of independent theaters showing it to 581.
The comedy about two journalists recruited by the CIA to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un starring Seth Rogen and James Franco grossed an estimated $2.8 million for its opening four-day holiday weekend a week ago, according to Sony.
Among other year-end limited releases, the Clint Eastwood drama “American Sniper” which stars Bradley Cooper as a Navy Seal sharpshooter, took in $640,000 playing in only four theaters and has earned a total of $2.2 million since its Dec. 25 release. Cooper is considered a front-runner for a best actor Oscar nomination for the role.
Comcast Corp.’s Universal released “Unbroken.” “Into the Woods” was distributed by Walt Disney Co.. Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. released “The Hobbit.” “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” was distributed by Fox, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox. Independent studio Relativity released “The Woman in Black 2” (Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Meredith Mazzilli)