Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
December 18, 2012

Chris Johnson is an okay dude, even if he cost me my fantasy football game yesterday.

An Unexpected 169 Minute Journey

Kim Hollis: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened to $84.6 million. Is this a good enough result?

Jason Barney: Yes, it is. It is not as much as the studio would have liked, nor is it as much as some of the original tracking estimates, but everyone involved should be happy. $84 million now places "The Hobbit I" as the largest December opening ever, so this opening didn't miss by much. Comparisons to the other films in the franchise are bound to happen, but the real mark of how this one performs will be against the production budget. With the overall costs of this one being in the $250-270 million range, it should not have to work too hard. It is the most anticipated holiday release of the season, and should play really well as schools go on break. Then when you take in the international receipts, the film should do quite well.

Matthew Huntley: I agree with Jay this a good enough result, but it could have/probably should have been better, especially since the box-office was so soft the past couple weeks due to the anticipation of this first Hobbit film. What's mildly troubling is how front-loaded the film was and I hope this doesn't translate into short legs. In any event, it should be able to dominate the next two weekends with ease and gross at least as much as it cost to make, paving the way for the sequels. No matter what, these films were going to be a success.

Bruce Hall: Compared to the other films in the franchise this is an impressive opening, although I think most people were expecting closer to the $90 million plus range. It's that front loaded weekend that should be of minor concern to anyone with a financial stake in The Hobbit. It could suggest a lack of legs, but there's no real competition for this movie's audience over the next couple of weeks, so in the end I think Matthew is right. Forget all those bland reviews, I'm looking at that nine digit foreign gross. This film is going to be a success.

Edwin Davies: This is towards the lower end of what I was expecting given that The Hobbit is the long-awaited next (first?) installment in a phenomenally successful, critically acclaimed and groundbreaking series. However, viewed as the opening for the first film in a new trilogy, this is a pretty good result, since there was no guarantee that the audience would should up to see a film which only features a smattering of the original cast, many of whom play a much smaller role than they did in any of the Lord of the Rings films. Coupled with the general unease about the film being first two then three films and the nonsense over frame rates and The Hobbit had a lot to overcome even before the unenthusiastic reviews started pouring in. Basically, I think this is fine, probably a little low considering inflation and the addition of 3D, but still a decent start for the film.

Shalimar Sahota: You’ve broken the record for the highest December opening - what could be bad about that? So yeah, it’s a good result, very close to where I expected it to open. It’s going to play well over the rest of the month, however the frontloadedness of the film and the middling reviews would suggest to me that word-of-mouth might not be so strong here. It does have me wondering if maybe it’ll take longer than usual to reach the $300 million mark (if at all).

Reagen Sulewski: I wouldn't worry all too much about front-loading with Christmas just over the horizon - even if it does take a bit of a hit this weekend, it's got a week or so of insane box office to run up the score with. But there was a lot riding on this opening as a proof of concept, and the fact that they're wrenching three movies out of material that could easily have just been one is going to put the money counters at Warner Bros. a little on edge. I think it is ultimately going to be fine, largely because international box office is such a bigger piece of the pie now, but if we're looking at comparables, somewhere in the 100s should have been what we'd seen for an opening weekend.

Felix Quinonez: I think this is a great opening. I know that a lot of people were expecting it to get close to or even over $100 million but I always thought those predictions were unrealistic. I know Lord of the Rings was one of the most popular series but I always felt that the Hobbit would be more for us nerds. That being said, this is a great start and the movie is perfectly positioned to ride the Holidays gravy train.

David Mumpower: I have more concerns than the rest of you. First of all, no matter what anyone at Warner Bros. says, this opening is on the VERY low end of expectations. We are commenting as if this is not troubling. Here is the reality. There have been nine years of box office ticket price inflation plus The Hobbit is released in IMAX as well as 3D. The average ticket price was $6.03 when Return of the King was released. Just think about that for a moment. We are talking about 12 million tickets sold for that film as opposed to 75% of that for The Hobbit. The boat was already leaking and now the next few weeks are impacted by the lackluster word-of-mouth for the title. Yes, the movie received an A Cinemascore but that was from people who were going to enjoy this movie no matter what. The non-zealots walked out of the theater wondering what happened to Peter Jackson over the past decade. International box office will carry The Hobbit to box office glory. Let's not mistake that as being the same as the film performing well relative to expectations. Thus far, it hasn't.

Kim Hollis: Honestly, this is about what I expected the film to make, given its December start and super hefty run time. For those worried about its front-loading, it's impossible to compare it to the first three films due to their Wednesday opening, but I don't think it is too terribly out of line considering its midnight (now actually 10 p.m.) start time. Now, I do think that Warner Bros. is probably dissatisfied with the debut, because it certainly *feels* like it should have done more. I do think that The Hobbit has turned out to be a tougher movie to sell than Lord of the Rings for a number of reasons. Turning a 300-ish page book into three films seems like overreaching, even if Peter Jackson is drawing on additional source material. At nearly three hours long, the movie becomes not-so-family-friendly. Reviews have indicated that Jackson hasn't captured the magic in the same way he did. I'm sure The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be fine as far as returns go, especially when overseas revenue is factored in. I think the bigger concern is whether audiences stay with the prequel series to the end.

Expectations: Second breakfast. Handkerchiefs.

Kim Hollis: What are your expectations for The Hobbit from this point forward?

Jason Barney: I think it is unfortunate that reviews have not been kind. I don't think this will hit the film's final take much, but just imagine what the buzz would be if this was as highly regarded as the Lord of the Rings films. Not that the reviews are horrible, but positive word-of-mouth means a lot with respect to strong daily holds. I would expect The Hobbit to have little trouble earning back the money the studio put into it. I doubt this is a strong enough opening for it to go over the $300 million mark, but it could come close.

Bruce Hall: I think that some of the more tepid reviews will serve to narrow the film's long term appeal, meaning I don't think this is going to be smash some people were evidently expecting. I DO think that it will ultimately equal or surpass the totals achieved by The Return of the King, but not by a wide margin. I just feel like there was a lot of money left on the table here, and it may have been because people had trouble connecting with Jackson's interpretation of the story and the ones who truly cared about that were particularly vocal. That's the thing that could spell "trouble" for the next two installments, assuming they're thematically and structurally going to be more or less the same. But the kind of trouble I'm talking about is the "Making a Slightly Less Mind Boggling Amount of Money Than Anticipated" kind of trouble. That's a pretty sweet problem to have.

Edwin Davies: My expectations fall somewhere between Jay and Bruce's. I think that the film will have little problem clearing the $300 million mark thanks to the holiday bonanza and the fact that it's really the only film of its type being released over the next few weeks, both of which should prop it up somewhat. After all, if the calendar configuration could make The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a $100 million earner, it should be able to push The Hobbit to $300 million. Beyond that, though, I think the film will probably make more than The Fellowship of the Ring, maybe The Two Towers, but will likely not match or beat Return of the King, which was a juggernaut in ways that The Hobbit absolutely isn't. Regardless of how big a hit The Hobbit winds up being, I think it's undeniably a hit at this point, though I think fan reaction will be key to determining whether the new trilogy sees the same ever-increasing returns that the original did.

Matthew Huntley: Although reviews from critics have been lukewarm, everyday audience reception--at least from what I could tell in the theater and on social network websites like Facebook--is positive and people are generally liking what they're seeing. With that in mind, I think An Unexpected Journey will go on to make somewhere between $250-$275 million domestically. Of course, I can only use its opening weekend as an indicator, but because it lacks the novelty of the first series (filmmaking/character-wise, it's more of the same), I don't think its gross will be as high. Where this puts next year's The Desolation of Smaug, I think it's too early to tell, but one thing that seems certain: the studios that wrote the checks for this franchise will make their money back.

Shalimar Sahota: If the film somehow ends up enticing kids that have never even seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies then it’ll likely do very well over the month and exceed expectations. Otherwise it's just the majority of the same fans that turned up around a decade ago.... which will still be good enough to be a success. However, given how it played out over the weekend I think it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to reach $300 million. I do not see it reaching the highs of Return of the King (both domestic and worldwide). In fact I'm now very interested to see how well it holds during that second weekend.

Felix Quinonez: I think that it will perform as if it were a sequel to the Lord of the Rings series in that it opened bigger but won't have as great legs. That being said it will definitely take advantage of the holiday movie bonanza but $300 million is not guaranteed.

David Mumpower: What hurts The Hobbit more than anything else is holiday calendar configuration. Christmas Eve on Monday is the "quick" version of the holiday box office money train. Fellowship of the Ring was released with the same calendar configuration. It grossed $165 million during the period from December 21st to January 2nd. In other words, it earned $150 million from the rest of its box office run opposed to $165 million during the holiday period. The Two Towers garnered $170.4 million of its $342.5 million during its 12 days of box office. Return of the King almost doesn't compare because it had weekends at the start (December 19th) and end (January 2nd) of its calendar configuration. As such, it grossed $217 million if we include those weekdays. Without, the total is "only" $172.1 million. I mention this to demonstrate just how large the swing can be during the late December holiday period. The Hobbit has a more narrow window, lackluster word-of-mouth and some confusing exhibition options (consumers simply do not know what to make of 48 frames per second 3D). I had presumed this would be at a minimum a $350 million domestic earner. At this point, that is a dicey proposition.