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'Les Miz,' 'The Hobbit' to fight for box-office perch

Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times (MCT) • Dec 28, 2012 at 6:52 AM

LOS ANGELES — “Les Miserables” could reach a crescendo this weekend as Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the classic Broadway musical has a strong chance of claiming No. 1 at the box office.

The star-studded film, which hit theaters Christmas Day, has been doing excellent business since its premiere and has already sold $30.3 million of tickets, distributor Universal Pictures estimates.

By Sunday, the movie featuring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe is likely to rake in an additional $35 million, say those who have seen prerelease audience surveys.

That’s about how much “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is expected to collect over the weekend, so the two films will be in a tight race for the top spot. As it enters its third weekend in theaters, Peter Jackson’s $250 million prequel to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy has grossed $179.7 million in the U.S. and $344 million overseas.

“Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s Western fantasy, is poised to take in an additional $30 million this weekend after starting off with a healthy $25 million from Tuesday and Wednesday screenings.

Even “Parental Guidance,” a critically reviled family comedy starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, may have a better-than-anticipated weekend at the box office.

Since opening Christmas Day, the movie has made $10.6 million, and from Friday to Sunday it could gross as much as $15 million.

Moviegoers showed up in droves to the multiplex on Christmas Day, when “Les Miz” posted the second-highest opening of all time for the holiday — behind 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes,” not accounting for inflation. Even better for the studios was that audiences liked what they saw.

“Les Miz,” which attracted a 56 percent female crowd, was most liked, earning an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. “Django Unchained,” starring Jamie Foxx as a slave turned bounty hunter, received an A-minus grade, as did “Parental Guidance.”

The positive reception for “Guidance” is particularly surprising, given that the movie has notched only a 17 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie, about a couple tasked with taking care of their rambunctious grandkids for a few days, was financed by 20th Century Fox and Walden Media for around $25 million, meaning its financial backers are poised to end up in good shape.

Universal, meanwhile, definitely has a hit on its hands with “Les Miz.” The movie, which had a budget of roughly $61 million, is also doing brisk business abroad. Even though it has debuted in only seven foreign markets, including Australia and Japan, the film has grossed $28.3 million so far internationally.

And although “Django” is the costliest of the Christmas releases — it cost more than $100 million to make — it should generate strong word of mouth in the coming weeks. The film is playing to a broad audience: 54 percent of the opening-day crowd was male, 54 percent was under 35 and roughly 42 percent was African American.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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