The fiery dragon breath of J.R.R. Tolkein's Smaug is about to melt Disney's "Frozen" at the box office.
After a record-breaking Thanksgiving (and follow-up) weekend dominated by the likes of "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and Disney's latest animated musical sensation, audiences are set to return to Middle Earth as "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" stomps its way into over 3,900 theaters.
Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" prequel trilogy, based on Tolkein's book, kicked off last year with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." The 2012 installment opened with $84.6 million around the same time last year and eventually made more than $1 billion around the world. But despite a marketing campaign heavy on Orlando Bloom's elfin archer, Legalos, and the killer dragon name-checked in the movie's title, "Smaug" is unlikely to achieve the same commercial heights as "Journey."
Nevertheless, the second "Hobbit" film will make plenty of dough and is a shoo-in for the #1 spot this weekend. Industry analysts predicted an opening between $70 million and $80 million going into the weekend, and fan devotion to the series remains high. MTV News spotted a handful of guys dressed as Gandalf waiting in line for a midnight screening at Hollywood's ArcLight Thursday night.
"Smaug" has better reviews than its predecessor, but neither "Hobbit" film came close to the 90+ percent Tomatometer rating claimed by all three "Lord of the Rings" movies. Of course, critics have never been able to stop Madea. Tyler Perry's most well-known character has made plenty of dough through multiple films, all mostly savaged by critics. "A Madea Christmas" should be no exception, with an opening weekend around $30 million looking very likely.
Frozen" should make $20 million or so to land at #3, leaving the rest of the top 5 to "Catching Fire" and "Thor: The Dark World."