After breaking December’s one-day opening record with $37.5 million this Friday, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has now captured the December weekend record with its estimated $84.7 million debut. That total was spread out among a giant 4,045 locations and multiple platforms (including three different 3D formats), which helped to secure An Unexpected Journey a higher debut than any of director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings features.
|2.||Rise of the Guardians||$7,420,000||$71.3|
|5.||Life of Pi||$5,400,000||$64.5|
|6.||Breaking Dawn Part 2||$5,175,000||$276.8|
|8.||Playing for Keeps||$3,247,000||$10.8|
|10.||Silver Linings Playbook||$2,084,000||$16.9|
Everything about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is big. The first film in director Peter Jackson’s trilogy clocks in at 2 hours and 46 minutes and launched in 4,045 locations: a record number for a December release. Among those 4,000-plus dates were screenings in 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D and High Frame Rate (HFR) 3D. With all those options, little wonder that The Hobbit has now broken two long-standing December records, including the single-day benchmark set by LOTR: The Return of the King back in 2003.
As for the all-time December weekend record, few doubted that that record would also fall to The Hobbit. The previous record holder was 2007’s I Am Legend with $77.2 million (Avatar just missed with $77 million in 2009, though it went on to much greater multiples). As it happens, I Am Legend also held the record for biggest Friday December debut with $30 million, so I guess that means that three long-standing records have now fallen.
Of course, The Hobbit’s path to history was made much smoother by the fact that there has been no major movie release since Thanksgiving. Perhaps recalling the phenom that was The Lord of the Rings, the big studios gave director Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth all the room it needed to walk away with the 2012 holiday season.
Beginning in December 2001, the Lord of the Rings films were all released the Wednesday before Christmas. Each entry improved on its predecessor in terms of openings, but their mid-week debuts inevitably meant that demand was lower by the time their first weekends rolled around. Here’s a quick look at how the three LOTR films performed, by the numbers:
|Year||Opening Day||First Weekend||Final Gross|
|Fellowship of the Ring||2001||$18,200,000||$47,200,000||$315.5|
|Return of the King||2003||$34,400,000||$72,600,000||$377|
Clearly, An Unexpected Journey has come out of the gate stronger than The Lord of the Rings films – though it is important to note that the figures above have not been adjusted for inflation. And, considering that 49% of this weekend’s estimate came from 3D venues while the LOTR trilogy had no 3D surcharge to boost its totals, some expected The Hobbit to go higher ($100 million-plus) on its first weekend. Why it didn’t has been open to debate.
To start, reviews for this first Hobbit feature have failed to live up to the past standards of Middle Earth. Currently, An Unexpected Journey has a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – nowhere near the 92% and higher that Jackson’s LOTR trilogy achieved. And then there is the controversy surrounding the film’s extra dimension. Along with 3,160 3D venues, 461 locations are screening The Hobbit in ‘HFR’ 3D: a print shot at 48 frames per-second, or twice the normal speed. This has disturbed more than one reviewer, and the negative buzz may have depressed the film’s profit potential in the higher-priced medium.
Still, The Hobbit is poised to close out 2012 with a long and lucrative run. By Friday, the film had already brought in an estimated $57 million worldwide from its 56 international territories. And even as we prepare to welcome several new titles to theatres (beginning on Wednesday with The Guilt Trip and Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. 3D), none of this year’s Christmas offerings appears to have the juice to take down Bilbo. Merry Christmas MGM and Warner Brothers!