While the opening session of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug trailed the $84.6m debut of The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey exactly one year ago by roughly 13%, it was still good enough to deliver the third biggest December launch.

The session provided strength in depth, however, as the top 12 grossed 7% more than the comparable weekend in 2012.

Peter Jackson’s fantasy epic from Warner Bros, New Line and MGM grossed $9.3m on 344 IMAX screens for roughly $27,000 per site. All 10 of the top North American venues were IMAX. The global IMAX haul amounted to $14.3m.

Factoring in the $131.2m international launch over the weekend, Smaug’s worldwide haul has reached $205m after a single weekend. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom lead the familiar cast.

Sony launched its fancied awards contender American Hustle – hot on the heels of its seven Golden Globe nominations – at number 15 on $690,000 from six venues for a sensational $115,000 per-site average.

The film will expand to 2,500 venues this week and is cued up to deliver a strong holiday season run as Academy members weigh up their likely nominees before they announce on January 16 2014.

David O Russell directed Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner in the Abscam tale about an FBI sting that took down a number of Congressman.

Disney launched its awards contender Saving Mr. Banks on $421,000 from 15 sites for a $28,067 average. The true-life drama earned Emma Thompson a best dramatic actress Globe nod last week and will expand to 2,200 sites this week for what should be a solid holiday run.

Disney’s acclaimed animation Frozen fell one place to number two on $22.2m for $164.4m after two weekends, while Lionsgate released its urban audience moneyspinner Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas at number three on $16m.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ranks number four through Lionsgate after four weekends and stands at $356.9m, while Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World at number five is on the cusp of $200m through Buena Vista after six sessions.

A cluster of specialty films populates the lower half of the top 10. Relativity Media’s Out Of The Furnace at six has grossed $9.5m after two sessions, while Philomena ranks eighth and has taken $11m through The Weinstein Company after four and Fox’s The Book Thief at number nine stands at $14.9m through Fox after six.

Focus Features kept Dallas Buyers Club at number 11 on $14.3m after seven sessions, while Nebraska ranks number 13 through Paramount on $3.3m after five. 12 Years A Slave, which like American Hustle claimed seven Golden Globe nods last week, ranks number 16 through Fox Searchlight and ha amassed $36.3m after nine.

This week’s new wide releases are Paramount’s Anchorman: The Legend Continues on Wednesday (December 18) and Walking With Dinosaurs through Fox.

Estimated Top 10 North America Dec 13-15 2013
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (Warner Bros-New Line, MGM) WBPI $73.7m –

2 (1) Frozen (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $22.2m $164.4m

3 (-) Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $16m –

4 (2) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) Lionsgate International $13.2m $356.9m

5 (4) Thor: The Dark World (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $2.7m $198.1m

6 (3) Out Of The Furnace (Relativity) Relativity International $2.3m $9.5m

7 (5) Delivery Man (Buena Vista-DreamWorks) WDSMPI $1.9m $27.9m

8 (9) Philomena (The Weinstein Company) Pathé $1.8m $11m

9 (7) The Book Thief (Fox) Fox International $1.68m $14.9m

10 (6) Homefront (Open Road Films) Nu Image $1.64m $18.4m