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‘Hobbit’ roars to top of N. America box office

Los Angeles: The latest installment of the Tolkien epic series, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” claimed the top spot at the North American box office this weekend.

The second part of The Hobbit film trilogy, starring Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman, earned a commanding $73.6 million in its opening weekend, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The series, directed by Peter Jackson, follow on the heels of his other mega-hit trilogy adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

Slipping to a distant second, with a still hefty $22.6 million in ticket sales, was Disney animated musical “Frozen.”

The 53rd movie in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, which began with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, “Frozen” is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale “The Snow Queen.”

Another new release opened in third place: “A Madea Christmas,” directed by and starring Tyler Perry in his recurring role as Madea, chronicles yet another adventure in the life of the tough, old woman. It earned $16 million in its debut weekend.

That pushed the latest installment of the blockbuster “Hunger Games” franchise into fourth place with $13.7 million, taking its overall earnings since its record opening four weeks ago to $357 million in North America alone.

“Hunger Games: Catching Fire” stars Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a teenager forced into a deadly battle for survival in the macabre post-apocalyptic kingdom of Panem.

Lagging well behind in fifth place was superhero flick “Thor: The Dark World,” the latest movie based on Marvel’s iconic comic book character, which took in $2.8 million.

The sixth place film, with $2.4 million, was “Out of the Furnace,” a thriller starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck as two brothers who are sucked into the criminal underworld as they attempt to break free from poverty.

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