'Hobbit' bests 'Rings' with $84.8 million opening
NEW YORK -- Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" led the box office with a haul of $84.8 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 debut well north of $200 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 Thursday, though 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.
"What's really important, what makes this special is the CinemaScore," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. "All these things point to a great word of mouth. We haven't even made it to the Christmas holidays yet. Kids are still in school this week."
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 merchandizing 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 long delay for "The Hobbit," nearly a decade after the last "Lord of the Rings" film, made it "one of those movies that had everyone scratching their heads as to how it would open," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
"It's been a decade since the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy concluded," said Dergarabedian. "There's been so much anticipation for this film and having Peter Jackson back at the helm just made it irresistible both to fans and the non-initiated alike."
"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 $7.4 million, bringing its cumulative total to $71.4 millon. The Oscar contender "Lincoln" from Walt Disney crossed the $100 million mark, adding another $7.2 million to bring its six-week total to $107.9 million. And Sony's James Bond film "Skyfall," with another $7 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 moviegoing 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."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," $84.8 million.
2. "Rise of the Guardians," $7.4 million.
3. "Lincoln," $7.2 million.
4. "Skyfall," $7 million.
5. "Life of Pi," $5.4 million.
6. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2," $5.2 million.
7. "Wreck-It Ralph," $3.3million.
8. "Playing for Keeps," $3.2 million.
9. "Red Dawn," $2.4 million.
10. "Silver Linings Playbook," $2 million.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Review: ‘Wonders’ more about mood than the plot
- Western Pa. filmed ‘Love the Coopers’ movie to open
- Review: ‘Brooklyn’ is one of the year’s best
- DVD reviews: ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie,’ ‘No Escape’ and ‘American Ultra’
- Holidays offer the gift of plenty of new films
- Review: ‘Trumbo’ a breezy, bright tribute to civil liberties
- Review: ‘Victor Frankenstein’ is a mashed-up mess
- Review: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ lacks magic of other Pixar films
- Former editor hopes ‘Spotlight’ gives newspapers a boost