Reviewers dis it, but audiences dig 'Hobbit'

  • Updated: December 16, 2012 - 4:59 PM
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The character Gollum, voiced by Andy Serkis, in a scene from the fantasy adventure "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Photo: Uncredited, Associated Press

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NEW YORK - Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" led the box office with a haul of $84.8 million, a record-setting opening better than the three previous "Lord of the Rings" films.

The Warner Bros. Middle Earth epic was the biggest December opening ever, surpassing Will Smith's "I Am Legend," which opened with $77.2 million in 2007, according to studio estimates Sunday. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" also passed the December opening of "Avatar," which opened with $77 million.

Despite weak reviews, the 3-D adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's first novel in the fantasy series was an even bigger draw than the last "Lord of the Rings" movie, "The Return of the King." That film opened with $72.6 million. "The Hobbit" is the first of another planned trilogy, with two more films to be squeezed out of Tolkien's book.

The long delay for "The Hobbit," nearly a decade after the last "Lord of the Rings" film, made it "one of those movies that had everyone scratching their heads as to how it would open," said Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com.

"The Hobbit" was far and away the biggest draw in theaters, with no other new wide release. Paramount's "Rise of the Guardians" continued to draw the family crowd, and the Oscar contender "Lincoln" from Walt Disney crossed the $100 million mark, adding another $7.2 million to bring its six-week total to $107.9 million.

Estimated weekend ticket sales:

1. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," $84.8 million

2. "Rise of the Guardians," $7.4 million

3. "Lincoln," $7.2 million

4. "Skyfall," $7 million

5. "Life of Pi," $5.4 million

6. "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2," $5.2 million

7. "Wreck-It Ralph," $3.3 million

8. "Playing for Keeps," $3.2 million

9. "Red Dawn," $2.4 million

10. "Silver Linings Playbook," $2 million

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