Fantasy epic ‘The Hobbit’ casts spell on box office

Tolkien epic "The Hobbit" weaved its magic at the North American box office this weekend, signaling a farewell to the blockbuster fantasy franchise, industry estimates showed Sunday.

The last of six films adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's books by Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson, "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" took $56.2 million in its debut weekend in the United States and Canada, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The success of "The Hobbit" flattened the competition in the final weekend before the Christmas holiday period.

Second spot went to "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," the third film in the Ben Stiller family comedy franchise based on the popular 1993 children's book.

The movie, which sees Stiller reprise his role as the security guard trying to keep track of exhibits that come to life at the New York Museum of Natural History, took $17.3 million.

In third place was another debutant, "Annie," the rebooted big-screen adaptation of the famous Broadway musical about the adventures of an orphan girl that also spawned film versions in 1982 and 1999.

The latest version, starring Quvenzhane Wallis in the title role and Jamie Foxx as the tycoon who takes her under his wing, took $16.3 million.

Ridley Scott's historical blockbuster "Exodus: Gods and Kings," starring Christian Bale as Moses, meanwhile, fell to fourth spot with $8.1 million.

Another sequel, "Hunger Games: Mockingjay," slipped to fifth with $7.8 million, pushing its earnings to $289.2 million after five weeks.

Jumping four spots to sixth was Reese Witherspoon drama "Wild" about a woman grappling personal demons on a grueling three-month solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

The film, which has vaulted Witherspoon into contention for best actress honors in Hollywood's awards season, took $3.75 million.

Seventh spot was occupied by Chris Rock's "Top Five" about a comedian trying to become a serious actor while grappling with his reality TV star fiancee about broadcasting their wedding. The film took $3.6 million on its second weekend.

In eighth place was Disney animated hit "Big Hero 6" with $3.56 million, with another animated movie, "Penguins of Madagascar" in ninth with $3.5 million.

Rounding out the top 10 was new entrant "P.K.," an Indian comedy from Bollywood star Aamir Khan, with $3.5 million.

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