Director Peter Jackson at the royal premiere of his film
"The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey" in central London.
"The Hobbit" brought home a big box office treasure over
the weekend, setting a December movie record with $US84.77
million ($NZ100m) in US and Canadian ticket sales as legions of
fans turned out for the long-awaited big-screen return to
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" also rung up sales of
$138.2 million in international markets. Global receipts for
the prequel to the smash "Lord of the Rings" trilogy stood at
$222.97 million through Sunday, distributor Warner Bros.
The current projection for the total box office take in 2012
is $10.8 billion, according to an estimate from
Hollywood.com, which would beat the $10.6 billion record in
The 3D "Hobbit" directed by Oscar-winning "Rings" filmmaker
Peter Jackson is the first of three films based on a 1937
classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Warner Bros. is aiming to
build on the success of the "Rings" series, one of
Hollywood's biggest franchises with $2.9 billion in global
The "Lord of the Rings" movies debuted in theaters from 2001
to 2003. After that, production on "The Hobbit" ran into
delays, leaving fans waiting a decade for another look at the
fantasy story of dwarves, wizards and elves.
The opening weekend "Hobbit" sales proved interest remained
high. North American (U.S. and Canadian) receipts toppled the
old record for December set by Will Smith sci-fi flick "I Am
Legend," which pulled in $77.2 million when it debuted in
"The best we were hoping for was to reach or exceed the $77
million set by that movie and we did it by quite a lot. It
was all good and we're very happy about it," said Dan
Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner
"You have to assume that by the time this first week is over
we are going to have around $110 million in the bank before
the holiday even starts," he added.
The new film follows the epic journey of hobbit Bilbo
Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, as he travels through the
treacherous Middle Earth with a band of dwarves to steal
treasures from the dragon Smaug.
The movie also stars Richard Armitage and Benedict
Cumberbatch, while Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Elijah
Wood reprise their "Rings" roles.
Opening-weekend audiences embraced "The Hobbit," awarding an
"A" grade in polling by survey firm CinemaScore. Critics had
a mixed response to the nearly three-hour film. Sixty-five
percent of reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website recommended
the movie, although some objected to Jackson's decision to
shoot it using a 48-frames-per-second format rather than the
SOME VIEWERS NAUSEOUS
The faster frame rate delivers clearer pictures, but some
critics called the format cartoonish and jarring. Some fans
at early screenings in New Zealand complained it made them
feel nauseous and dizzy, according to The New Zealand Herald.
Only a fraction of theaters showed the film in the new
The next two "Hobbit" movies are schedules to reach theaters
in December 2013 and July 2014. The films were financed by
MGM and Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema unit for an estimated
"The Hobbit" took a bumpy, years-long journey to the big
screen that included two directors and a lawsuit. Jackson
made the "Rings" trilogy when producers could not get "The
Hobbit" rights that were held by MGM's United Artists unit.
Guillermo del Toro was first hired to direct "The Hobbit" but
he left the project when financial woes at MGM caused delays.
The movie went into production only after Jackson settled a
lawsuit against New Line in a dispute over profits from the
"The Hobbit" was the only new nationwide release over the
weekend. The rest of the top five were films that have been
playing for weeks.
In second place was the animated family film "Rise of the
Guardians" with $7.4 million, followed by historical drama
"Lincoln" starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the revered U.S.
president, which grabbed $7.2 million from Friday through
Sunday, according to studio estimates.
James Bond movie "Skyfall" landed in fourth place with $7
Next on the box office chart was "Life of Pi," which captured
$5.4 million. Teen vampire tale "The Twilight Saga: Breaking
Dawn - Part 2" earned $5.17 million.
Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. released "The Hobbit."
"Lincoln" was produced by Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks
Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Co. Sony Corp's movie
studio released "Skyfall." Dreamworks Animation distributed
"Rise of the Guardians," which was released by Viacom Inc's
Paramount Pictures. Summit Entertainment, a unit of Lions
Gate Entertainment, released "Breaking Dawn."