Hobbit takes $223 million
The first of three films based on an adaptation of the 1937 novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. It will star Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug. Several actors from The Lord of the Rings will reprise their roles, including Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood & Orlando Bloom. Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) is swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug.
'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' took $223 million worldwide on its opening weekend.
The film - which stars Martin Freeman in the title role - made the highest-ever gross for a movie opening in the US in December, taking $84.8 million, with the additional $138.2 million coming from 56 worldwide territories.
Outside of America, the highest gross came in the UK, with
$18.3 million, and Germany, with $16.3 million.
While the figure - which saw 49 per cent of takings come through 3D sales - was lower than anticipated, studio bosses were still delighted.
Warner domestic distribution president Dan Fellman told Variety: ''To accomplish this kind of opening with a big chunk of our audience (i.e., students) unable to go Friday is remarkable.
''It sets us up nicely for those glorious Christmas holiday weekdays.''
Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, president of international distribution at Warner, added: ''This incredible journey has inspired passionate fans around the world, who could not wait to return to Middle-earth, this time with Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves.
''These impressive results speak to the universal appeal of this story.''
'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' enjoyed the second-biggest ever opening for December globally, behind only 'Avatar', which took $242.5 million worldwide in 2009.
The movie has yet to open in some major territories, including Russia, Australia and China.