SUNDAY 11 AM, 8TH UPDATE: Hollywood now has high hopes for this all-important holiday box office after this journey to Middle Earth is the largest Christmas release of all time. Rival studios knew Peter Jackson‘s film adaptation of the 1937 JRR Tolkien novel would be a monster hit so left this weekend alone. Warner Bros says The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey internationally opened to $138.2M in its first 5 days for 15M admissions in 56 markets from 18,200 screens. Domestically it earned $84.7M from 4,045 theaters. That makes for a gargantuan worldwide total of $223M, including a December record of $15M from IMAX screens. Pic opened in U.S./Canada to $37.5M Friday and $28.1M Saturday and an estimated $19.1M Sunday for an $84.7M weekend with an ‘A’ CinemaScore from audiences. There are two records shattered – biggest December Friday and biggest December weekend for the domestic box office. The debut for the 3D actioner from MGM/Warner Bros in 4,045 theaters is grossing much larger than The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Friday’s take included a record $13M from 3,100 midnight shows, counting $1.6M on IMAX screens. Matinee trends had the pic on a $113+M fast track for its first U.S.-Canada weekend. But then its business slowed Friday evening no doubt because of its very long 2 hour, 46 minute running time. Exit polling of the audience showed that males made up 57%/females 43%, and that under 25 years old were 42%/over 25 yrs old 58%/under 18 years old 20%.
The Hobbit was digitally re-mastered into IMAX 3D format and a select number of IMAX theatres will be presenting the pic using a higher frame rate (HFR) – presenting the picture in 48 frames per second (fps) which is closer to what the human eye actually sees. This is twice the rate of the standard 24 fps, which is the current format in cinemas worldwide. This use of HFR 3D is the first in a major motion picture release. Domestically, IMAX (included in the overall total) comprised $10.1M from 326 locations. As for market share, 3D made up 49% and 2D was 51%. IMAX logged multiple sellouts across North America. In fact, The Hobbit‘s top 10 North American locations were all IMAX runs.
It’s already the #1 movie internationally since opening Wednesday. Warner Bros says 3D screens represented 60% of the total box office. The Hobbit broke an IMAX December record, grossing $5M in 126 IMAX overseas locations for a hefty per screen average of $40K. (December records were set in Brazil, Spain, Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.) IMAX HFR locations generated $44K per screen domestically and $57K per screen overseas. Country by country, Warner Bros says The Hobbit opened to: UK – £11.4M (US$18.3M) taking 62% of the market share with 3D projection 60%; Germany – €12.6M (US$16.3M) including previews, representing a 60% share with 3D taking 80%; France – €9.8M (US$12.7M) taking 63% of the top 5 films with 3D projection 60%; Korea debuted to KRW9.2B (US$8.5M); Spain €6.5M (US$8.4M); Sweden SEK39.6M (US$6.0M); Italy €4.2M (US$5.4M); Mexico Ps66M (US$5.2M); Brazil R$10.1M (US$4.9M). My insiders thought it was very possible for the movie to end this weekend with approximately $200M worldwide but it did way more. Yowza!
In the U.S. and Canada, MovieTickets said box office advance tickets for the pic accounted for nearly 91% of sales going into Friday, with nearly 18% coming from those wanting to see the film in standard 3D format, 8% in High Frame Rate 3D, and 7% in IMAX 3D. The record opening for this weekend is I Am Legend‘s $77m. Remember, all Lords Of The Rings 2D films opened Christmas Week whereas 3D The Hobbit will play to lower openings but huge multiples helped by 3D and IMAX. The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey‘s production was managed by New Line Cinema with parent company Warner Bros Pictures handling worldwide theatrical distribution. Select international territories (including Scandinavia) as well as all international television distribution was handled by MGM.
In North America, the film is playing in 4,045 theaters, a record number for December. That includes 3,160 3D theaters and 461 theaters in the 48 frames-per-second format. Overseas, The Hobbit is opening in 55 territories on approximately 17,000 screens this weekend (excluding Australia, China and Russia). The pic scored a record opening in New Zealand where it was filmed and which is Jackson’s native country, marking the biggest non-holiday debut for a Wednesday.
Warner Bros, which specializes in tentpoles, crafted an event-level marketing campaign that simultaneously had to satisfy Tolkien’s Hobbit and Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings fans but also ignite new ones. “We were fortunate to have in Peter Jackson a director who had both a unique vision for this broad movie marketed to everyone and a sustained relationship with his singular fan base,” the studios told me. To aid that, The Hobbit included many familiar faces among the cast and filmmakers from the original trilogy: Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Ian Holm as Old Bilbo, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Elijah Wood as Frodo, and Andy Serkis as Gollum. Martin Freeman plays the central role of Bilbo Baggins, with Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield.
The screenplay was by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro based on the Tolkien novel. Jackson and Walsh also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham and Zane Weiner. The executive producers are former Warner Bros film topper Alan Horn, and New Line chief Toby Emmerich, as well as Jackson’s longtime manager and producing partner Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood. Also pivotal was Jackson’s Weta Digital, the five-time Academy Award- winning visual effects facility based in Wellington, New Zealand, as well as Weta Workship for physical effects.
The marketing campaign began back in 2011 on Facebook with a series of video journals from Jackson’s POV, engaging fans throughout the year by taking them into the production activity leading up to the announcement trailer at the beginning of 2012. Jackson also marked milestones like Hobbit Day and the novel’s 75th anniversary. Publicity included the first ever film-themed Rolling Stone standalone issue and a week of television programming on The Colbert Report. The Hobbit also received major treatment from Fall and Holiday previews. An online media blitz kicked off in early November with an advanced ticketing campaign across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to drive early ticket sales. Warner Bros live-streamed the world premiere from Wellington, New Zealand, to a record-setting audience of a million views.
DreamWorks/Fox/Disney’s Lincoln passed the $100M mark domestically on Thursday, 34 days from its initial exclusive release in 11 theaters on November 9th. Total moviegoing this weekend was $137M, which is +15.9% over last year.
Here’s the Top Ten based on weekend estimates:
1. The Hobbit: Unexpected Journey (MGM/WB) NEW [Runs 4,045] PG13
Friday $37.5M, Saturday $28.1M, Weekend $84.7M
2. Rise Of The Guardian (DWA/Par) Week 4 [Runs 3,387] PG
Friday $1.5M, Saturday $3.4M, Weekend $7.4M, Cume $71.3M
3. Lincoln (DreamWorks/Fox/Disney) Week 6 [Runs 2,285] PG13
Friday $1.9M, Saturday $3.2M, Weekend $7.2M, Cume $107.9M
4. Skyfall (Eon/MGM/Sony) Week 6 [Runs 2,924] PG13
Friday $1.8M, Saturday $3.0M, Weekend $7.0M, Cume $272.3M
5. Life Of Pi (Fox) Week 4 [Runs 2,548] PG
Friday $1.3M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $5.4M, Cume $69.5M