Paramount's "The Marked Ones" debuted in second place with $18.2 million, a total that includes Thursday night screenings, according to studio estimates Sunday. The film is a stand-alone story spun off from the lucrative, low-budget horror franchise "Paranormal Activity," the fifth of which will be released in October.
But it wasn't able to overcome Disney's animated "Frozen," which has been a hit for family audiences for the last seven weeks. It has now surpassed $600 million worldwide, making it the second highest grossing Disney Animation release, behind "The Lion King." It will soon pass that film's $312 million domestic haul, too.
It's extremely rare for a film to lead the box office in its seventh weekend, a feat accomplished by the likes of "Avatar" and, to go further back, "Legends of the Fall." It's rarer still for a film to retake the box-office lead so late in its theatrical run. The last movie to do so was Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004, according to box-office tracker Rentrak.
Another hold-over, Warner Bros.' "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," came in third with $16.3 million in its fourth week of release after narrowly topping the busy Christmas weekend box office. Like "Frozen," Peter Jackson's second installment of his "Hobbit" trilogy has benefited from the lengthy holiday moviegoing season. Its domestic cumulative total is $229.6 million.
The snow and icy temperatures battering the Midwest and Northeast likely tempered the weekend's box-office business.
"Everyone probably suffered a little bit from the weather," said Don Harris, head of domestic distribution for Paramount. "It looked like no matter what movie it was, it was half a million to a $1 million less on Friday and Saturday than you would have been expecting, just based on what the norms were."
"The Marked Ones," made for just $5 million and starring a largely Hispanic cast, was the lone new wide release in the marketplace, as the large batch of late December releases looked to separate themselves from the pack.
Successes include Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" ($63.3 million in two weeks for Paramount), David O. Russell's acclaimed "American Hustle" ($88.7 million in four weeks for Sony) and the Will Ferrell sequel "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," (well past $100 million domestically in three weeks for Paramount).
Having a harder time finding audiences are "47 Ronin" starring Keanu Reeves (a $175 million bomb for Universal earning $32.6 million in two weeks), the Robert De Niro-Sylvester Stallone boxing comedy "Grudge Match" ($24.9 million in two weeks for Warner Bros.) and Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" ($45.7 million in two weeks for 20th Century Fox).
"It's like traffic on the freeway," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. "At this level of competition, there are always going to be casualties."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday:
1. "Frozen," $20.7 million ($52 million international).
2. "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," $18.2 million ($16.2 million international).
3. "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," $16.3 million ($58 million international).
4. "The Wolf of Wall Street," $13.4 million ($6.3 million international).
5. "American Hustle," $13.2 million ($6.8 million international).
6. "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," $11.1 million ($5.4 million international).
7. "Saving Mr. Banks," $9.1 million.
8. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," $8.2 million ($31.5 million international).
9. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $7.4 million ($9.1 million international).
10. "Grudge Match," $5.4 million.
Estimated weekend ticket sales Friday through Sunday at international theatres (excluding the U.S. and Canada) for films distributed overseas by Hollywood studios, according to Rentrak:
1. "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," $58 million.
2. "Frozen," $52 million.
3. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," $31.5 million.
4. "47 Ronin," $20.5 million.
5. "Paranormal Activity," $16.2 million.
6. "Walking With Dinosaurs," $11.3 million.
7. "The Attorney," $10.8 million.
8. "The Physician," $10.5 million.
9. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," $9.1 million.
10. "4G Theory," $8 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/jake_coyle