The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (review/teaser/trailer) basically opened like a Lord of the Rings film, give or take various variables. Its $84.7 million estimated debut clobbered the December record, which is the $77 million earned by Avatar ($77 million, $80 million adjusted for inflation) and I Am Legend ($77.2 million, $89 million adjusted for inflation) in 2009 and 2007 respectively.
It soundly thumps the various other Lord of the Rings films, but this is where it gets tricky. The prior Peter Jackson Middle Earth pictures opened on the weekend before Christmas week, which I’ve long argued is the best weekend of the year to open your picture. So the fact that The Hobbit opened a week earlier makes this number a little more impressive, although the pre-Christmas weekend is more about legs than opening weekend. On the other hand, the prior films all opened on a Wednesday, meaning that their would-be opening weekend was spread out of five days. And of course, we have to take into account nine years of inflation and the whole 3D/IMAX price bump. So purely looking at inflation and comparing the Fri-Sun portion, this opening is about on par with The Two Towers ($62 million, but $84 million adjusted for inflation) and well ahead of Fellowship of the Ring’s ($72 million, but adjusted-for-inflation $66 million) and King Kong ($50 million, and $62 million adjusted for inflation) for what that’s worth. It’s a bit behind the $72 million/$95 million opening of The Return of the King.
To read more go to Mendelson’s Memos
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