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Hobbit scores December record opening weekend

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey swept the US and international markets in its first weekend of play.

Peter Jackson’s epic 3D fantasy adventure The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened in the US and in 56 territories abroad, earning a US December opening weekend record of $84.8 million and the fourth-largest opening of the year offshore with $138.2 million. The film, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, is the first in a planned trilogy of films adapting the book, and is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Though the numbers were indeed healthy and the film even bested the final Lord of the Rings installment, Return of the King, which opened to $73.3 million in the US, there is still a vague sense of disappointment that the prequel to one of the most popular franchises ever could not break the $100 million mark, especially considering premium 3D and IMAX ticket prices. In addition to shooting in state of the art 3D, Jackson made the decision to film in a bolstered 48 frames per second – a technological point of interest that drew some viewers to a limited number of locations projecting in the accelerated frame rate. In the US, 49% of ticket revenue came from 3D cinemas, while abroad, 3D accounted for 60% of revenue. Critical reviews were middling.

A distant second, Rise of the Guardians came in at number two domestically and internationally with $7.4 million and $20.1 million, respectively. The 3D holiday film, voiced by Alec Baldwin and Jude Law, has now grossed $71.4 million at home and $119.4 million abroad, and is likely to have some staying power through the holiday season.

Boosted by Golden Globe nominations in categories including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln eased only slightly to $7.2 million at home in third place, and is now the highest grossing of the award contenders with a total of $107.9 million earned thus far. It is scheduled for a late January UK release.

Skyfall ranked fourth in the US with $7 million and abroad with $12.2 million, generous sums for a film in its seventh week of play internationally, particularly considering direct competition from The Hobbit.

Fellow holdovers Life of Pi and Twilight took the next spots on the US charts. Pi drew $5.2 million domestically and $11.5 million abroad, ranking fifth in both contests. Twilight eased to $5.2 million at home in sixth place and $13 million abroad, where it ranked third.

Indie romantic dramedy Silver Linings Playbook scored Golden Globe nominations for stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, as well as Best Picture in the Comedy/Musical category, but remained in limited release at just 371 cinemas and earned $2.1 million for the weekend in the US. More locations are scheduled to open on Christmas day.

Looking forward to next weekend, upcoming wide releases in the US include Judd Apatow-helmed This is 40, as well as Tom Cruise crime drama Jack Reacher and animated sequel Monsters, Inc. 3D, portending some box office movement but likely no additional awards buzz. Life of Pi will make its UK debut this Thursday.

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