The Hobbit out-opens Lord of the Rings, but not in terms of attendance

12.17.12 6 years ago 2 Comments

For a lot of us, high frame-rate curiosity was the only reason to see The Hobbit (for others, a hairy-foot fetish), and it was those and other premium-priced tickets that helped make it the highest-grossing movie of the Lord of the Rings franchise. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey earned $84.78 million for the all-time December opening record, thanks to 3D and IMAX screenings. Based on actual attendance, it fell between the first and second Lord of the Rings movies (ahead of the first, just shy of the second).  It received an A Cinemascore, but then so did Alex Cross, Here Comes the Boom, and Breaking Dawn Part 2. If the marketing tells people exactly what kind of movie they’re going to get and then it gives them strictly that, the Cinemascore will be good. It’s like buying a hamburger.

3D showings accounted for 49 percent of ticket sales, which is about on par with most major releases right now. Warner Bros. isn’t currently providing a breakdown for the high-frame-rate (HFR), though a distribution executive there suggested it had the highest per-screen average among the three main formats (2D, 3D, HFR 3D). That may not sound overly convincing, but IMAX is reporting that HFR did $44,000 per-theater compared to $31,000 at regular IMAX 3D locations. Overall, IMAX contributed an estimated $10.1 million (12 percent) this weekend.

It’s hard to rag on a new monthly record, but it does feel like this $84.8 million debut is a slight miss for The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings is one of the most popular movie franchises ever, and adapting the prequel story should have been a box office slam-dunk. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. marketing almost exclusively focused on The Hobbit’s connection to Lord of the Rings, and therefore failed to show what’s special about this movie. Add in confusion about the trilogy situation (which WB didn’t make much of an effort to correct) and some middling reviews (65 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), and many casual moviegoers likely decided to take a “wait-and-see” approach here.

Long-term, though, The Hobbit should be in fine shape. December releases typically have a slow start but hold well through the Holiday season, and that will likely be the case with The Hobbit as well thanks to solid word-of-mouth (it received a strong “A” CinemaScore from audiences this weekend). [BoxOfficeMojo]

So it was really good but not great, and maybe not as good as it could’ve been but still pretty good. Jeez, I haven’t been this bored since I saw The Hobbit. HEYO! That’s right, suck on that sweet burn, Peter Jackson, you unfathomably rich demigod to millions. Feh, I say. According to *this* reviewer, you, sir, are overrated. (*smugly takes bite of flamin hot Cheeto, with pinky out*)

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