Nine years after The Return of the King wrapped up director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Middle Earth is back. An Unexpected Journey, the first of three films Jackson based on JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit, debuted yesterday in 4,045 locations. That included 3,160 3D and 461 ‘HFR’ 3D sites and was a record launch for December. No surprise, then, that The Hobbit is set to smash many more records this month. On its first full day in theatres, An Unexpected Journey took in an estimated $37.5 million, including $13 million from 3,100 midnight premieres. That ranks as the all-time best debut for December, topping the $34.4 million The Return of the King earned on its Wednesday, 2003 premiere. Weekend projections for The Hobbit are in the $95 million range, which would easily top I Am Legend‘s all-time December record of $77.2 million. An Unexpected Journey already took in $27.2 million overseas ahead of its US debut, making a $200 million worldwide total a real possibility by the end of this weekend. We’ll have full details tomorrow.
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