Box-Office Oracle: Can ‘The Hobbit’ Hit Triple Digits?

Current Streak: 0 Straight Weekends #1 Predicted Correctly
Threat Level to Streak Being Broken: Seriously small. In fact, none.
Reason: The only real drama about this weekend is just how big The Hobbit will get. Is it going to open bigger than Return of the King? Or is it more like The Fellowship of the Ring? Let’s break it down!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Word just came in that Silver Linings Playbook will still only play in 370 theaters this weekend so Laremy’s estimation of 1,000 theaters is obviously going to be off.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an enigma. Clearly, it’s going to win the weekend, likely by a factor of ten. But how can we formulate a prediction out of the massive noise surrounding it, especially given nine years have passed since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King?

For comparison’s sake, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring had a per theater average of $14,055, Two Towers managed to surpass that level, hitting $17,119 per theater and Return of the King put up a healthy $19,613 per theater. Clearly the trend heads upwards. Believe it or not, inflation since 2003 is about 22 percent. So does one automatically bump up the $19,613 number 22 percent?

Then there’s the 3-D angle, which usually is a ten percent boon to tent-pole films. If you extrapolate out this data, we’re at an opening around $107 million. This is a very big number, especially given I Am Legend is the current December opening weekend record holder at $77 million. Do you feel comfortable adding $30 million to the highest amount ever? I certainly don’t. I’d also opine the demand for this Hobbit must be less than Lord of the Rings, somewhat because it’s a prequel, but also because there is a slight differentiation between Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fans. Not a huge one, but certainly enough to cancel out the 3D advantage plus a couple percent.

I then dip it around five percent due to reviews, which are trending about 25 percent less on RottenTomatoes when compared to the Rings franchise. I’m not claiming people will avoid it simply based on less effusive reviews, but there may be a smallish minority who are willing to wait a weekend due to that factor. The final five percent of loss I’m attributing to 48 frames per second. At least one out of 20 people will spread the word that the effect gave them headaches. There! We’re at $88 million.

In terms of the holdovers, Skyfall will finish a distant second, inching closer to the vaunted “billion dollar” level worldwide. Rise of the Guardians still cost too much to make, perhaps getting involved in the Best Animation race will add to the bottom line? I wouldn’t hold out hope.

Lincoln might end up never winning a weekend, but it will surpass $100 million domestically, and it’s a huge player in the Best Picture race. Life of Pi is around $130 million short of profit, but the international outlook has been relatively healthy.

Silver Linings Playbook is a big question mark this weekend, I could see it getting the Young Adult Golden Globe bump. I’ve got it at 1,000 theaters (which is a complete assumption on my part), so if that number isn’t accurate, you’ll need to adjust accordingly.

That’s all for this award-winning episode of Box-Office Oracle, let me have it with your own personal The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey prediction, and just for fun let’s go after a Silver Linings Playbook number as well!

SIDE NOTE: Most of the theater numbers below are estimates. We’ll have the actual counts in Sunday’s wrap-up article.


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