Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained came in No. 1 at the box office Wednesday for the first time since opening on Christmas Day.
Django -- from The Weinstein Co. and starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio -- grossed $4.6 million to unseat New Line and MGM's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which took in $4.4 million for a new domestic total of $242.5 million (Hobbit is expected to jump the $500 million mark internationally on Thursday).
Hobbit and Django, earning $82.4 million to date, could find themselves in a close race this weekend for the top spot at the North American box office, with each predicted to gross in the $18 million to $20 million range.
Others caution against ruling out Universal's Les Miserables, which took in $3.6 million on Thursday for a domestic total of $84.2 million. The film adaptation of the hit stage musical, with an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Russell Crowe, is expected go gross in the $16 million to $18 million range.
Hollywood is hoping for a final burst of moviegoing as the 2012 year-end holidays officially come to a close. Because New Year's Day fell on a Tuesday, most schools and colleges are off until Monday, while many parents are still off of work. However, the box office will have to compete with NFL playoffs Saturday and Sunday.
Among new entries opening Friday, Texas Chainsaw 3D projected to come in No. 4 unless the movie exceeds pre-release tracking. From Lionsgate, the movie picks up where Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic slasher film Texas Chainsaw Massacre left off.
Lionsgate, which is distributing Chainsaw 3D on behalf of Millennium Films and has limited exposure, is predicting an opening in the $15 million range.
After a modest start in limited runs, Matt Damon and John Krasinski drama Promised Land expands nationwide, upping its theater count from 25 locations to 1,675. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the Focus Features and Participant Media film has earned $294,000 since its Dec. 28 debut.
From a script by Damon and Krasinski, Promised Land is about a salesman (Damon) for a natural gas company trying to convince a small town to allow fracking. Krasinski plays a would-be environmentalist, while Frances McDormand plays the salesman's partner.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor's The Impossible, about the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, makes a more modest expansion this weekend, upping its theater count from 15 locations to 572. From Summit, The Impossible has grossed $628,000 since opening on Dec. 21.
Among holdovers, 20th Century Fox's family friendly comedy Parental Guidance should stay high up on the chart. The movie is playing particularly well in middle America, and has grossed $40.7 million to date. Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei has been holding steady at No. 4 since its Dec. 25 debut.