By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood December 15, 2012 at 3:49PM
As expected, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" overcame a turbulent production history, mixed reviews and a nearly three-hour length to open strong. The $37-million-plus gross included some $13 million from midnight shows: about one million people on a December weeknight attended the first late night showings across the country. Simultaneous international openings suggest similar global reaction, leading to a strong head wind for the expensive production heading into Christmas.
While very good, the gross suggests that it might not ascend the heights of previous pre-Christmas December openings such as "Avatar" or "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." The latter opened on a Wednesday, with lower ticket prices and without the boost of 3-D and other supplemental charges that "The Hobbit" enjoys, and at $34.5 million, sold substantially more tickets on its way to a first five-day gross of $124 million. "Avatar," at slightly lower ticket prices--with the same 3-D boost and about 600 fewer screens-- did $26.7 its opening day (also a Friday). The comparison of first Saturday among these films will better determine how strong this film is.
No other new opening attempted to challenge "The Hobbit"; the rest of the line-up consists of holdovers. Among the top ten films, "The Hobbit" actually did more than 80% of the business. But despite the competition and the usual pre-Christmas doldrums, three holdovers enjoyed better-than-usual holds. "Lincoln" fell only a little more than 20% and has already passed $100 million. "The Life of Pi" and "The Rise of the Guardians" both fell around a third, which helps position them for competing for continuing through the holidays in many theaters. The rest dropped between 40 and 50% for the day,more in line for the season.
The Top Ten for Friday in millions:
1) "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Warner Bros.) - $37.5
2) "Lincoln" (Buena Vista) - $1.9
3) "Skyfall" (Sony) - $1.9
4) "The Rise of the Guardians" (Paramount) - $1.5
5) "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" (Lionsgate) - $1.5
6) The Life of Pi (20th Century-Fox) - $1.4
7) "Playing for Keeps" (FilmDistrict) - $1.0
8) "Wreck-It Ralph" (Buena Vista) - $.7
9) "Red Dawn" (FilmDistrict) - $.7
10) "Silver Linings Playbook" (Weinstein) - $.6