Box Office Beat: Weekend of December 14

Danny Baldwin's Box Office BeatHello and welcome back to Box Office Beat, the column in which I predict the upcoming weekend’s box office grosses. Once again, there is only one new wide release, but this time, it’s a big one. Let’s crunch some numbers…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved book, arrives nine years after the release of the filmmaker’s final “Lord of the Rings” film. Given there aren’t many who dislike what Jackson did with “LOTR,” I can’t imagine this film opening worse than the opening installment of that saga. However, “The Fellowship of the Ring” opened on a Wednesday, so figuring out a comparable figure is a little tricky. The first five days on “Fellowship” were $75m; I’ll arbitrarily reduce that by 10 percent to account for the reduction to three days, meaning $67.5m. But because “Fellowship” came out all the way back in 2001, inflation needs to be considered, bringing the figure up to $88.2m.

But we’re not done yet. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is being offered in several 3-D formats, which come with surcharges, further inflating the gross. All the typical formats are being offered, plus cutting-edge High Frame Rate 3-D in 400 theaters. But this new technology doesn’t seem to be selling that well, due to both intense criticism in early reviews and Warner Bros not advertising its virtues. Thus, I think the 2D-3D breakdown will be in line with other films of this sort: 55 percent 2D, 45 percent 3D. This brings the absolute low gross on “Hobbit” to right around $98m.

So, the question that remains is: How high above the aforementioned floor will “The Hobbit” rise? My prediction is, not that much. The “Lord of the Rings” finale, “Return of the King,” managed $125m in its first five days, but series finales almost always get a bump. People are inherently less likely to see new material right away, even if it’s adapted from a source that’s as well-known as “The Hobbit.” So I’m going to play this conservatively. For the sake of predicting a round number, I’m going to say that “The Hobbit” does an even $100 million — a great start to the franchise.

My prediction of what the full top 10 will look like:

  1. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” … $100.0m
  2. “Rise of the Guardians” … $7.8m  -25.0%
  3. “Skyfall” … $7.6m  -29.5%
  4. “Lincoln” … $7.1m  -20.4%
  5. “Life of Pi” … $6.2m  -25.6%
  6. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” … $5.9m  -35.6^
  7. “Playing for Keeps” … $2.9m  -49.6%
  8. “Wreck-It Ralph” … $3.9m  -19.7%
  9. “Red Dawn” … $2.7m  -36.3%
  10. “Flight” … $2.5m  -20.1%