‘The Hobbit’ Breaks December Box Office Record with $84.8-million Debut

The highly expected picture crushed the competition at the box office in its first weekend, setting a new December record.

The Warner Bros. Middle Earth epic hit the box office this weekend, as the film came in well below industry expectations. Photo: Warner Bros

“The Hobbit” has become the biggest December opening in the box office history, eclipsing Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” success, which scored $77.2 million in 2007, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The highly anticipated movie also passed the December opening of “Avatar,” which opened with $77 million. Internationally, “The Hobbit” has already earned $138.2 million.

It global debut is estimated about $223 million with mentioning that the film did not open in include China, Australia, and Russia.

Earlier this weekend, pre-release audience polling predicted that the first installment in Peter Jackson’s prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” franchise would gross between $120 million and $140 million.

Instead, the mid-earth picture made $84.8 million during its first three days in theaters, reports its distributor Warner Bros.

Although that’s still a good result for the first weekend, and the biggest one ever for the month of December – not adjusting for inflation, the movie – which cost a whopping $250 million to produce – still has a lot to prove, writes The Los Angeles Times.

“It’s been a decade since the `Lord of the Rings’ trilogy concluded,” said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

“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,” he added.

However, the film has already received mixed reviews by movie critics with 65 percent approving it, according to The Rotten Tomatoes.

“It frequently seems as though Jackson was less interested in making The Hobbit than in remaking his own fabulously successful Lord of the Rings series,” said of the movie Christopher Orrof The Atlantic.

Richard Roeper also was not impressed by “The Hobbit,” as he wrote of it: “There’s no denying the majesty in Peter Jackson’s visuals but he’s taken a relatively slim children’s book and stretched it beyond the limits.”

“For better or worse this is no longer J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit it has become Peter Jackson’s Hobbit. Lots of talking, walking and singing. Hard to take the villains seriously when they all sound like high-pitched singing versions of Elmer Fudd,” described the picture Eclipse Magazines reviewer.

However, there are those who enjoyed the movie, saying: “Happily, despite all the technical details, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is exciting, tantalizing and satisfying.”

Todd Jorgensonof Cinemalogue.com claims: “While this film is way too long and might be more for Tolkien devotees than mainstream audiences, after a slow start it turns into a rousing adventure with plenty of visual flair and top-notch action sequences.”

One more critic, David Kaplan, added: “Whatever you think of Sir Peter Jackson – he was knighted in 2010 for “his service to films” – you have to admire his ambition.”

“The Lord of the Rings” franchise, whose latest part was released in 2003, became one of the highest-grossing film series of all time. It earned more than $2.9 billion worldwide, and the last film “The Return of the King” also won best picture at the Academy Awards.

It still interesting to find out whether “The Hobbit” will match that type of financial and critical success, though Dan Fellman, the studio’s president of domestic distribution, was optimistic about the film’s prospects.

“We took a chance opening the film up before Christmas, but the window was there for us. There wasn’t another strong movie coming out this weekend,” he said.

“My feeling was that if we could have $100 million in the bank before the holiday kicks in, we’d be in great shape. So I don’t have any regrets.”

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