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'The Hobbit' Racks Up December Record $84 Million


Though the opening weekend of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" wasn't quite as big as some anticipated, Peter Jackson's return to Middle-Earth was nothing short of a smash hit over the weekend, earning more than $20,000 per site and getting off to a great start in theaters. "Rise of the Guardians," "Lincoln" and "Skyfall" also had big overall weekends, continuing strong box office runs that began back in mid-November. "Silver Lining Playbook" was another title that was able to find its audience, as the Oscar hopeful brought in $2 million at just 371 venues, enough for it to squeeze into the top 10.

While a few different movies had strong overall weekends, it was all about "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." As the start to a new series, "An Unexpected Journey" had a clear built-in audience thanks to the success of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, helping it put up one of the biggest openings of the entire year. With $84 million in opening revenue, "An Unexpected Journey" beat out "I Am Legend" and "Avatar" to become the biggest movie opening in the history of December, setting it up for a nice box office run throughout the rest of the year and into January.

But even with a very nice opening total, don't expect "An Unexpected Journey" to start challenging James Cameron's "Avatar" in terms of overall box office success any time soon. With underwhelming critical support and plenty of other big titles hitting theaters over the next couple of weekends, "An Unexpected Journey" should see a fairly swift slide, likely leaving it well short of $300 million in the U.S. - a mark that all three in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy were able to meet.

Though domestic numbers might be a little below "Rings," its worldwide appeal should also ensure that it will be a massive overall hit. "An Unexpected Journey" has already earned $138 million outside of the U.S., pushing its worldwide total to a very strong $200 million after just one weekend in theaters. Look for "An Unexpected Journey" to see big foreign numbers for the next month and to finish with one of the biggest worldwide totals for any 2012 release.

As "An Unexpected Journey" easily found its target audience, "Rise of the Guardians" stayed near the top of the charts with a solid $7.42 million, giving it $71 million in domestic receipts after its fourth weekend in theaters. "Rise of the Guardians" is far from a runaway hit thanks to a large production budget of $145 million, though big overseas numbers and a good run in the home market should make it another overall success for distributor Paramount/Dreamworks.

Also continuing to put up big box office totals is "Lincoln," Steven Spielberg's massively acclaimed historical drama that has turned into the awards season favorite. Backed by a slew of Golden Globe nominations, "Lincoln" dipped less than 20% from its total last weekend, propelling it well over the $100 million domestic mark. As "Lincoln" racks up the awards over the next month, expect expanded screenings and plenty of tickets sales for Spielberg's latest hit.

While "Lincoln" continues to do very well with adult demographics, "Skyfall" has maintained considerable pull with action audiences since its release at the beginning of November. "Skyfall" has been in the top five for six straight weekends, enough time to help it rack up $272 million domestically and more than $950 million around the globe. Regardless of whether or not "Skyfall" can reach the coveted $1 billion worldwide mark, the James Bond franchise is at a high point in the series and we should see 007 back on the big screen fairly soon.

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 a 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."

Early Studio Box Office Estimates for 12/14/12 - 12/16/12 (in millions), [RTT Prediction]:

1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Brothers): $84.78 [$102]

2) Rise of the Guardians (Paramount/Dreamworks): $7.42 [$5.9]

3) Lincoln (Disney): $7.24 [$6.9]

4) Skyfall (Sony/Columbia): $7 [$6.3]

5) Life of Pi (Fox): $5.40 [$4.9]

6) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (Summit): $5.12 [$4.5]

7) Wreck-It Ralph (Disney): $3.27 [$2.8]

8) Playing for Keeps (Film District): $3.28 [$2.6]

9) Red Dawn (Film District): $2.39 [$2.5]

10) Silver Lining Playbook (Weinstein): $2.08

by RTTNews Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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