By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood January 2, 2014 at 12:18PM
While it seemed that Benedict Cumberbatch was everywhere in 2013, from baddie Khan in "Star Trek" and dragon Smaug in the latest "Hobbit" installment, several of his films suffered some disappointing returns at the box office, most notably his only headliner "The Fifth Estate," where he played WikiLeaks badboy Julian Assange. But the new year is off to a good start for the Brit actor, whose "Sherlock" third season premiere nabbed the highest-ever UK ratings upon its return to the BBC. (We have to wait for our Cumberbatch fix until January 19 on PBS Masterpiece, when "Sherlock" plays back-to-back with "Downton Abbey.")
The New Year's Day episode, titled "The Empty Hearse," had 9.2 million UK viewers tune in. This beats out the Season 2 opener by almost half a million. The third season's return had also had quite the build-up going for it: The series has been on hiatus for almost two years, no doubt partially to accommodate Cumberbatch's busy filming schedule ("12 Years a Slave" and "August: Osage County" rounded out his five films of 2013).
Now, Cumberbatch (like his "Hobbit" and "Sherlock" co-star Martin Freeman) is clearly a bigger star in the UK than in the states, where he has yet to catch on in a headlining way. At 37 he's an actor on the swift rise who is undoubtedly popular. He is still one of many great actors, from Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton to Jason Clarke, who have yet to prove themselves as marquee draws. After all, that is the definition of movie star: someone who can actually open a movie and earn their millions by putting butts in seats.
As with past seasons, the third season of "Sherlock" has three episodes. Check out the trailer for the second episode, below.