"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" beat out "Frozen" in a battle as tight as the last lap of a NASCAR race to win its third straight weekend and cap a record year at the 2013 box office.
Peter Jackson's second movie in his "Hobbit" trilogy, a prequel to the "Lord of the Rings," will take in $29.8 million over the three days, and has rung up nearly $50 million since Christmas Day. It's rolled up $190 million domestically and more than $500 million worldwide since opening on Dec. 13 for Warner Bros., New Line and MGM.
Disney Animation's 3D "Frozen" was just behind it with $28.8 million for the three days -- an eye-popping 47 percent increase from last weekend -- and $44.2 million over the five days. After six weeks, "Frozen" is about to pass $250 million in the U.S. and is bearing down on $500 million worldwide.
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Final numbers will come Monday, but with "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" at $20.1 million, "American Hustle" at $19.5 million and Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" opening to $18.5 million, the jam-packed holiday weekend pushed the overall box office ahead of last year's record grosses of $10.83 billion.
The crazy-crowding at Christmas meant some movies were going to take box-office belly flops, and they did. Keanu Reeves' pricey samurai epic "47 Ronin," the Sylvester Stallone-Robert De Niro boxing comedy "Grudge Match" and Justin Bieber's concert documentary all bombed since opening on Christmas Day.
"The Hobbit" is on course to match the $1 billion global haul of 2012's first film, "An Unexpected Journey," and Warner Bros. has succeeded in making it a holiday habit. Like the first two films, next year's "There and Back" will open in mid-December.
"The finale in a series almost always does the best of a series, so we're very much looking forward to next year," the studio's executive vice president for distribution Jeff Goldstein told TheWrap. "We've still got a long way to go with this one though."