Final Hobbit passes half-billion dollar mark UPDATED

Worldwide takings for the third Hobbit film have topped $US580.6 million

Sir Peter Jackson’s final film in The Hobbit trilogy has topped the American box office for the second weekend and brought its worldwide total to over $US580 million.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has grossed $US175.5 million in America after two weeks but it has taken another $US405.1 million in non-US markets for a total $US580.6 million to December 28.

In the US, it was up against four other strong attractions, Angelina Jolie’s direction of Unbroken, the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini’s harrowing efforts to survive his bomber plane’s ocean crash and later imprisonment by the Japanese army, Disney’s Into the Woods, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and a remake of the musical Annie.

But most of the publicity has been the chaotic rollout of The Interview, an R-rated comedy that suffered a terrorist threat, a cancellation and a subsequent revival.

The film about an assassination plot on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was released through 331 art house and independent cinemas, where it has earned $US3.1 million to December 29 against a budget of around $US40 million.

It debuted simultaneously on digital platforms such as YouTube and Google Play and was added to Apple’s iTunes last Sunday, though it’s not playing on cable providers or Amazon.

Sony Pictures says online rentals and sales totalled $US15 million in just four days, a record for any film.

In New Zealand, latest NZ Motion Picture Distributors' Association figures show (Dec 25-28) Battle of the Five Armies with a gross to date of $5.5 million, just $300,000 behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, which has been on screens for six weeks compared with three for Battle of the Five Armies.

These figures put the popular movie franchises at third and fourth on this year's box office champions behind the second Hobbit at $9.4 million and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at $7.1 million (both cumulative from 2013 release).

In Australia, the Boxing Day release of Battle recorded the highest opening day box office of the year and the fourth-highest opening day ever.

Distributor Village Roadshow says the takings of $A5.59 million were narrowly ahead the result for last year's second Hobbit instalment, The Desolation of Smaug.

Sir Peter’s Middle-earth movies now hold the record for the top six Boxing Day releases in Australian history. Boxing Day is the biggest single day of the year by some measure, accounting for on average 7.7% of annual box office since 2000.