Huge opening weekend for The Hobbit
Peter Jackson will be smiling as his movie The Hobbit has a fantastic opening weekend with huge US and Canadian ticket sales.PT0M50S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2bich 620 349 December 17, 2012
The Hobbit brought home a big box office treasure at the weekend, setting a December movie record with $US84.77 million ($A80 million) in US and Canadian ticket sales as legions of fans turned out for the long-awaited big-screen return to Middle-earth.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey also rung up sales of $US138.2 million in international markets. Global receipts for the prequel to the smash Lord of the Rings trilogy stood at $US222.97 million on Sunday, distributor Warner Bros said.
The current projection for the total box office take in 2012 is $US10.8 billion, according to an estimate from Hollywood.com, which would beat the $US10.6 billion record in 2009.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Photo: AFP/Warner Bros
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 $US2.9 billion in global ticket sales.
The Lord of the Rings movies debuted in theatres 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 (US and Canadian) receipts toppled the old record for December set by the Will Smith sci-fi flick I Am Legend, which pulled in $US77.2 million when it debuted in 2007.
"The best we were hoping for was to reach or exceed the $US77 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 Bros.
"You have to assume that by the time this first week is over we are going to have around $US110 million in the bank before the holiday even starts."
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 the survey firm CinemaScore. Critics had a mixed response to the nearly three-hour film. Sixty-five per cent 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 usual 24.
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, The New Zealand Herald reported. Only a fraction of theatres showed the film in the new format.
The next two Hobbit movies are scheduled to reach theatres in December 2013 and July 2014. The films were financed by MGM and Warner Bros' New Line Cinema unit for an estimated $US500 million.
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 Rings films.
The Hobbit was the only new nationwide release in the US at 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 $US7.4 million, followed by historical drama Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the revered US president, which grabbed $US7.2 million from Friday to Sunday, according to studio estimates.
The James Bond movie Skyfall landed in fourth place with $US7 million.
Next on the box office chart was Life of Pi, which captured $US5.4 million. Teen vampire tale The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 earned $US5.17 million.