After two very slow weekends at the box office, theaters will be busy once again this weekend with the release of Peter Jackson's highly anticipated "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which should pick up where "The Lord of the Rings" left off nearly a decade ago. As "The Hobbit" dominates at the box office, "Lincoln," "Skyfall" and "Life of Pi" could also put up one more strong weekend before the onslaught of other titles slated to hit theaters throughout the rest of December. With a slew of heavily marketed titles in a variety of genres reaching theaters from now through the holidays, the box office should once again put up some big numbers in what has become one of the most lucrative times of the year for movie releases.
Based on the beloved books by J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was a smash hit both critically and commercially, ushering director Peter Jackson to the top of the A-list. After "The Fellowship of the Ring" opened with $47 million back in 2001, the series grew with each release until "Return of the King" racked up a $72 million opening two years later, making it the prototype for how to develop a franchise in the decade since. With worldwide revenue for finale "Return of the King" crossing $1.1 billion, the franchise went out on a high note in 2003 and even took home a record-tying 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Thanks to the buzz from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters with enormous expectations for distributor Warner Brothers, though it's also just about a lock to be a mega-hit. Though "The Hobbit" is an entirely different Tolkien story than "The Lord of the Rings," the original novel was also massively praised by readers and many of the same characters will return, making it a relatively easy sell to mainstream audiences.
Also helping is the complete lack of competition this weekend, as there hasn't been a prominent new release since "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" launched nearly a month ago. Another potential factor is a shorter run time than any of the releases in the "Rings" trilogy, which opens the door for more overall screenings. Following the expected strong numbers from midnight screenings, look for "The Hobbit" to put up an enormous weekend in the neighborhood of $100 million, easily enough to dwarf the rest of the competition.
With "The Hobbit" racking up some big numbers and creating long lines this weekend, a few other titles should still see decent ticket sales despite the strong competition. Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" continues to be a major hit with adult audiences and should squeak by $100 million in the next couple of days, leading it to yet another top-five finish at the box office this weekend. Thanks to a bevy of nominations for early awards, the buzz surrounding "Lincoln" will likely hold all the way until the Academy Awards ceremony in February, giving it plenty more time to do damage at the box office.
Also maintaining strong audience support is latest James Bond release "Skyfall," which returned to the top of the charts last weekend in the U.S. and is now up to more than $900 million around the globe. With "Skyfall" not even hitting Chinese theaters until January, it stands a very good chance at crossing the $1 billion worldwide mark even as it finally starts to slide in the U.S. Though the Bond franchise hit somewhat of a low mark a few years ago with "Quantum of Solace," "Skyfall" has become the most critically and commercially successful Bond film since the early Sean Connery days of the 1960s.
Next weekend, Tom Cruise-starring action-thriller "Jack Reacher" has some positive early critical buzz backing it up as it hits theaters and Judd Apatow comedy "This is 40" is another title in very good position to reach holiday audiences. The re-release of Pixar's "Monster's Inc." in 3D should also be able to find its intended demographic as the only family-friendly release on the radar. The release schedule will heat up further around Christmas with the launching of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," the latest adaptation of "Les Miserables" and Kathryn Bigelow's widely acclaimed "Zero Dark Thirty."
RTT Box Office Predictions for 12/14/12 - 12/16/12 (in millions):
1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Brothers): $102
2) Lincoln (Disney): $6.9
3) Skyfall (Sony/Columbia): $6.3
4) Rise of the Guardians (Paramount/Dreamworks): $5.9
5) Life of Pi (Fox): $4.9
6) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (Summit): $4.5
7) Wreck-It Ralph (Disney): $2.8
8) Playing for Keeps (Film District): $2.6
9) Red Dawn (Film District): $2.5
10) Flight (Paramount): $2.5
by RTT Staff Writer
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