The US opening of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last weekend failed to match that of the first film. But that’s not likely to worry Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. executives because the sequel outperformed the original in its first international markets.

Meanwhile Saving Mr Banks had a reasonably strong opening on limited screens in the US after a disappointing first couple of weeks in the UK.

Smaug is projected to earn $US73,6 million in its opening weekend in the US, 13% below The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey's $84.6 million debut. The Hollywood Reporter noted the sequel faced strong competition in holdovers Frozen and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, while a storm on the East Coast affected ticker sales.

WB reported the action fantasy raked in $135.5 million in 49 markets, outpacing the original in territories such as Germany, France and Brazil and parts of Asia. “Despite a slower start, Smaug could still reach An Unexpected Journey's final $1 billion worldwide tally since it's likely to do big business overseas,” the Reporter said.

However noted that “reactions were somewhat mixed: while the movie satisfied die-hard fans, casual viewers seemed to be more lukewarm.”

The New Zealand opening  was $NZ2.2 million in four days. Comparisons with the original are hard because it launched on a Wednesday and wound  up earning $NZ11.5 million, so the sequel looks set for a long and lucrative run in Kiwiland. The film opens in Oz on Boxing Day.

Co-produced by Essential Media and Entertainment and the UK’s Ruby Films, Saving Mr. Banks rang up an $US413,000 at 15 locations in the US. That’s an impressive per-screen average of $27,558 but not in the same league as David O. Russell’s American Hustle, which took a phenomenal $740,000 on just six screens.

The big test for the tale of Walt Disney’s struggles to secure the rights for Mary Poppins from Australian author PL. Travers, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, comes when it rolls out nationwide in the US next weekend.

The film directed by The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock and scripted by Sue Smith and Kelly Marcel, made about $4 million in its first two weeks in the UK after getting mixed reviews. Disney is launching the film here on January 9.

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