He's not even four feet tall, but nobody is willing to stand up to "The Hobbit" this weekend.
No studio was brave enough to pit a major film against "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first part of Peter Jackson's epic three-part adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic that preceded the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy way back in 1937.
Lionsgate's Al Pacino/Christopher Walken comedy "Stand Up Guys" is expected to be a blip on the radar.
Jackson's Oscar-winning final entry in the last trilogy, 2003's "The Return of the King," opened with a series-best $72 million. Arriving on the heels of two weekends mostly filled with Thanksgiving leftovers and flops, "The Hobbit" is expected to dominate in over 4,000 theaters, with an estimated 3,160 of them showing it in pricier 3-D. Midnight screenings kicked off the campaign last night, with industry prognosticators predicting a debut in the $100 million range.
"While 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' won't likely match the $141 million opening bite of the final 'Twilight' episode, expect Warner Bros. to capitalize on the beloved, dormant franchise," Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock told MTV News.
IMDB.com's Keith Simanton said he has a bet going with Box Office Mojo's Ray Subers. "I say 'The Hobbit' will open over $100 million. He says it will be under." What are the terms of this box-office wager? "We have a lunch riding on it."
While the film carried a 67 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes "Tomatometer," which aggregates reviews from film critics, as it cruised into the weekend, it's important to remember that each of the "LOTR" movies scored above 90 percent. Online chatter has centered on the movie's extended playtime, which is indulgent considering it's the first of a three-part adaptation of a single book, versus the previous trilogy which was adapted from three full-length books. There is also Jackson's somewhat controversial use of the 48fps frame rate, which has generated some complaints about the film's look.
"In simple terms, films are screened at 24 frames per second (fps), but Jackson shot 'The Hobbit' in 3D at 48fps, which technically speaking, makes the motion flow twice as smooth," Bock explained. "That said, what you'll likely experience at a 48fps screening isn't your brain melting, but images that come across more like digital home video."
The biggest James Bond movie of all-time thus far, "Skyfall," has maintained a super strong hold and should continue to do decent business. But the runner-up to "The Hobbit" will most likely be Disney's historical epic "Lincoln," which crossed the $100 million mark this week as it racked up seven Golden Globe nominations, more than any other film. Simanton predicted that "Life of Pi," from filmmaker Ang Lee, may also get a commercial bump from recent awards-season praise.