Warner Bros. has just announced that The Hobbit earned an estimated $13.0 million from midnight showings at 3,100 locations last night, giving it a per-theater average of $4,193 from midnight shows alone. It’s a nice recovery from the doldrums of the past two frames. When combined, the last two wide releases to hit theaters, Playing for Keeps and Killing Them Softly, couldn’t earn $13.0 million over their entire opening weekends. Included in The Hobbit‘s midnight figure is $1.6 million that the film earned from 326 IMAX theaters.

Yesterday, I predicted a $110 million weekend for The Hobbit, which would make it the fifth-highest opening of 2012 behind the debuts of The Avengers ($207.4 million), The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million), The Hunger Games ($152.5 million), and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 ($141.1 million). For reference, here’s how each of those films did at midnight:

The Avengers – $18.7 million

The Hunger Games – $19.7 million

The Dark Knight Rises – $30.6 million

Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – $30.4 million

Despite the comparatively low midnight gross, I’m expecting The Hobbit to hold up substantially better than all those films over the full weekend thanks to its increased family appeal (parents aren’t taking youngsters to see a three hour movie at midnight). Encouragingly, The Hobbit played substantially better than other effects-driven December releases like Avatar, which started with $3.5 million at midnight on the way to a $77.0 million weekend in 2009, and I Am Legend, which started with $1.7 million on the way to $77.2 million in 2007 — the current December opening weekend record. Granted, midnight showings weren’t nearly as popular even three years ago as they are now, but The Hobbit will still easily crush those grosses. Stay tuned to EW all weekend long to see how high the film actually climbs.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Movie
  • 170 minutes
  • Peter Jackson