'The Hobbit' Makes $13 Million at Midnight, Poised to Set December Box Office Record

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has only been in theaters for a few hours now, but forecasts are already predicting that the latest epic from Peter Jackson will set a new box office record for a December release.

Thanks to the $13 million "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" made in its midnight release last evening, Box Office Mojo is reporting that the film is well on its way to breaking the mark currently held by "I Am Legend." By comparison, "I Am Legend" brought in $77.2 million in its opening weekend back in 2007, only $1.7 million of which came from its midnight release.

Of course, "The Hobbit's" earning potential is somewhat curtailed by its 169 minute run time, which limits the number of showings each theater can present. Still, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" should benefit enough from both 3D premiums and inflation to pass "I Am Legend" on the charts, presuming mediocre word of mouth doesn't keep fans away.

Jackson, of course, is no stranger to December blockbusters; all three installments of "The Lord of the Rings" debuted in December, with 2003's "Return of the King" earning $72.6 million in its first weekend. That number, however, was reduced somewhat thanks to a Wednesday release. His 2005 epic "King Kong," which like 'The Hobbit" opening on December 14, debuted with $50.1 million.

"The Hobbit" has already set a December debut record by premiering on 4,045 screens nationwide.