Peter Jackson has returned to Middle-earth and woe betide anyone who attempts to stop him. The New Zealander has unleashed his latest volley of Middle-earthlings on the world and nothing – not even James Bond or a crack squad of children's icons – can resist their advance.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey demolished the competition as an estimated $84.8m (£52m) through Warner Bros scored the highest December opening weekend at the box office in North America. Bilbo and his buddies prospered beyond US and Canadian shores too, generating $138.4m from 56 markets including the UK. After three days, the movie stands at $223m worldwide.
It's got blockbuster written all over it and will soar past the $600m global box office mark, but what will be interesting to watch will be the debate over frame rates: Jackson is an ardent advocate of 48 frames-per-second (as opposed to the industry norm of 24 frames-per-second) and the topic is a hot potato because it has divided critics ever since he previewed footage at the CinemaCon show in Last Vegas last April.
I've yet to see The Hobbit but recall watching that footage. The 48 frames-per-second appeared hyper-real and it felt as if you were watching a nature documentary on video. I am told even the adult entertainment industry rejected 48 frames-per-second because it is too lifelike, which is interesting because – like Jackson's Tolkien sagas – that's also a multibillion-dollar business that trades in fantasy.
Regardless of how the frame rate argument will play out, the people at New Line, MGM and Warner Bros will be rightly chuffed with themselves this week as we head into the holiday season.
Rise of the Guardians has demonstrated admirable staying power and ranks No 2 in its fourth weekend of release. The movie has already taken around $120m internationally so the imminent prospect of crossing $200m at the global box office will offer some consolation for the rather weak North American box office. That's not the case over at Sony, where Skyfall is poised to cross $275m in North America within days. Sony/MGM/Eon's James Bond smash has grossed more than $951m worldwide.
Harvey Weinstein has frequently occupied the basement of this column and perhaps that is because he tends to have the last word – and laugh – on many matters box office. Silver Linings Playbook, the crowd-pleasing hit of the Toronto film festival, has notched up $17m after five weekends. That's good going for a movie that has not played in more than 371 sites at any one time. This reflects the platform release strategy that Weinstein does so well. The movie earned a few Golden Globe nominations last week and, as it continues to curry favour with critics groups heading towards the Oscar nominations on 10 January, watch as they expand the theatre count and the box office returns grow.
North American top 10, 14-16 December 2012
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, $84.8m
2. Rise of the Guardians, $7.4m. Total: $71.4m
3. Lincoln, $7.2m. Total: $107.9m
4. Skyfall, $7m. Total: $272.4m
5. Life of Pi, $5.4m. Total: $69.6m
6.The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, $5.2m. Total: $276.9m
7. Wreck-It Ralph, $3.3m. Total: $168.8m
8. Playing for Keeps, $3.2m. Total: $10.8m
9. Red Dawn, $2.4m. Total: $40.9m
10. Silver Linings Playbook, $2.1m. Total: $16.9m
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image: © Justin Sewell