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Hobbit breaks December record


This article was published December 21, 2012 at 2:12 a.m.


Martin Freeman stars as Bilbo Baggins in the fantasy-adventure film The Hobbit. It came in first at last weekend’s box office and made more than $84.6 million.

— Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit led the box office with a haul of $84.6 million, a record-setting opening better than the three previous Lord of the Rings films.

The Warner Bros. Middle earth epic was the biggest December opening ever, surpassing Will Smith’s I Am Legend, which opened with $77.2 million in 2007, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey also passed the December opening of Avatar, which opened with $77 million. Internationally, The Hobbit also added $138.2 million, for an impressive global debut of $223 million.

Despite weak reviews, the 3-D adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s first novel in the fantasy series was an even bigger draw than the last Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King. That film opened with $72.6 million. The Hobbit is the first of another planned trilogy, with two more films to be squeezed out of Tolkien’s book.

While Jackson’s Rings movies drew many accolades - The Return of the King won best picture from the Academy Awards - the path for The Hobbit has been rockier. It received no Golden Globes nominations on Dec. 13, although all three Rings films were nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for best picture.

Particularly criticized has been the film’s 48 frames per second (double the usual rate), a hyper-detailed look that some have found jarring. Most moviegoers didn’t see The Hobbit in that version, though, as the new technology was rolled out in only 461 of the 4,045 theaters playing the film.

Regardless of any misgivings over The Hobbit, the film was a hit with audiences. They graded the film with an A CinemaScore.

The strong opening culminated a long journey for The Hobbit, which was initially delayed when a lawsuit dragged on between Jackson and Rings producer New Line Cinema over merchandising revenue. At one point, Guillermo del Toro was to direct the film with Jackson producing. But eventually the filmmaker opted to direct the movie himself, originally envisioning two Hobbit films. The production also went through the bankruptcy of distribution partner MGM and a labor dispute in New Zealand, where the film was shot.

The Hobbit was far and away the biggest draw in theaters, with no other new wide release. Paramount’s Rise of the Guardians continued to draw the family crowd, with $7.1 million, bringing its cumulative total to a bit more than $71 million. The Oscar contender Lincoln from Walt Disney crossed the $100 million mark, adding another $7 million to bring its six-week total to $107.7 million. And Columbia’s James Bond film Skyfall, with $6.6 million domestically, drew closer to a global take of $1 billion.

The box office continued to be on the upswing, and with anticipated releases like Les Miserables, Django Unchained and The Guilt Trip approaching in the holiday movie going season. Dergarabedian expects the year to break the 2009 record of $10.6 billion. “With some $10.2 billion in revenue thus far,” he said, “we’re on track to be in that realm.”

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 12/21/2012

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