When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey premiered in theaters, there was not a whole lot for Warner Bros. to be excited about. The film polled to audiences far below The Lord of the Rings in terms of shear popularity as its first Friday barely edged Return of the King’s debut Wednesday nine years ago. Seeing how that date for Peter Jackson’s trilogy capper did not land on any holiday, a head-to-head comparison between the two looked horrendous given the fact that the latest competition released three weekend’s prior. While the first 72 hours grossed higher for An Unexpected Journey, having a Saturday and Sunday certainly helped fuel the Tolkien record as well as ticket price inflation coupled with 3D premiums.
Of course, this was still a giant pile of money, but the holidays played a huge role in making this film a pretty penny as of late which leads to our story today. About a week after the film glided past half-a-billion at the global box office, the first leg of The Hobbit series has found its way past $700 million, suggesting the pic could eventually come close to its predecessors in terms of a $850+ million performance. The numbers will almost assuredly drop off a cliff in the coming days, but ultimately there is really no other film coming out for a while that will challenge An Unexpected Journey for its target audience.
Django Unchained and Les Miserables did have a brief stay at the top of the box office charts on Christmas Day, but those two films are so entirely different in appeal that it probably will not become an issue when both features stay hot going into award season. This is exactly how Avatar managed a lengthy run, and we see no reason that a similar degree of post-release success would fail to materialize on a much smaller scale. It should be mentioned that the vast majority of the business being discussed is in fact that of the repeat moviegoer variety which is what makes this less of a question going forward. On that note, some suspected that the blockbuster would not have benefited from such viewing in large part thanks to negative reviews which consider An Unexpected Journey the worst trip to Middle Earth to date.