"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" took in plenty of treasure at the box office this weekend.
Per studio estimates Sunday, the Warner Bros. fantasy film took the No. 1 spot with $73.7 million, besting last weekend's No. 1 film, Disney's animated fable "Frozen."
Melting down to the No. 2 position, "Frozen" -- which features the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel and Josh Gad -- earned $22.2 in its third weekend, bringing its impressive overall domestic ticket total to nearly $164.4 million. Internationally, the Disney hit gained $31.5 million.
Despite its first place position and positive reviews, "The Desolation of Smaug" fell short of topping its prequel's debut. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which opened this same weekend last year, gained $84.6 million. It earned $131.2 million in international sales.
"'Hobbit' rules this date and Warner Bros. has linked this brand to this time of year very effectively," said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Rentrak.
"We had an excellent weekend," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. "Of course, it could have been a little better, but the weather back East was really tough last night and probably took a couple million dollars out of my pocket. But our box office will survive. We are right on target to do very similar numbers to the last 'Hobbit,' which grossed a $1 billion worldwide (overall)."
Lionsgate's holiday-themed "Tyler Perry's a Madea Christmas" came in third place with $16.2 million.
Another Lionsgate film, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," earned $13.2 million for the fourth place slot. To date "Catching Fire" has grossed $739.9 million, surpassing the worldwide box office total for "The Hunger Games," which brought in $691 million.
Disney's super hero sequel, "Thor: The Dark World," continues to thrive as it remained in the top five with $2.7 million, bringing its domestic total to $198.1 million.
In its second weekend, Relativity Media's redemption drama "Out of the Furnace," starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, dropped to the sixth place position with $2.3 million after opening in the third place slot.
Disney's comedy "Delivery Man," with Vince Vaughn as the lead, dropped in at No. 7 in its fourth weekend at the box office with $1.9 million, bringing its domestic total to $28 million.
The Weinstein Co.'s "Philomena," starring Judi Dench, who received a best-actress Golden Globe Awards nomination for her performance as a nun in search of her son, landed in the No. 8 spot at the weekend box office with $1.8 million.
In its sixth weekend at the box office, Fox's Nazi Germany-set "The Book Thief," starring Emily Watson, Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse, held the ninth position with $1.7 million.
Coming in at No. 10 was the Jason Statham and James Franco-starring Open Road crime thriller "Homefront," which gained $1.6 million in its third weekend. Its total domestic gross is now $18.4 million.
Opening in limited release in just six locations, David O. Russell's con artist tale, "American Hustle," scored $690,000 over the weekend. This aces the success of his Oscar-winning film "Silver Linings Playbook," which saw $27,687 during its opening weekend in December of 2012. "American Hustle," featuring stellar performances by Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, has been nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The overall gross of this weekend's ticket sales is expected to surpass the $136.5 million gained the same weekend last year. "All films this weekend should estimate $145 million," said Dergarabedian.
With only a few weeks left in the year for moviegoers to populate the multiplex, the wide selection of impressive films fares well for eclipsing 2012's box office record of $10.8 billion.
"We are half a percent above last year," added Dergarabedian. "And we have a really strong crop of films with some notable titles still yet to open in wide release, like 'Anchorman 2,' 'American Hustle' and 'Saving Mr. Banks,' among others."