15 December 2012 12:49 PM, PST | Thompson on Hollywood | See recent Thompson on Hollywood news »

As expected, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" overcame a turbulent production history, mixed reviews and a nearly three-hour length to open strong. The $37-million-plus gross included some $13 million from midnight shows: about one million people on a December weeknight attended the first late night showings across the country. Simultaneous international openings suggest similar global reaction, leading to a strong head wind for the expensive production heading into Christmas. While very good, the gross suggests that it might not ascend the heights of previous pre-Christmas December openings such as "Avatar" or "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." The latter opened on a Wednesday, with lower ticket prices and without the boost of 3-D and other supplemental charges that "The Hobbit" enjoys, and at $34.5 million, sold substantially more tickets on its way to a first five-day gross of $124 million. »

- Tom Brueggemann

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