Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has finally finished making its journey to the big screen, and Middle Earth fans sure missed the director-co-writer's take on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.
The film, the first of three based on the slender 1937 tome "The Hobbit," picked up an estimated $13 million in midnight screenings in the U.S. on Thursday night. It's the best December midnight performance of all-time.
Opening on 3,100 theaters (it's adding nearly 1,000 more today), and aided by inflated IMAX, 3D and 48 fps ticket prices, "The Hobbit" is expected to gross somewhere between $80 million to $90 million for the weekend, which should easily pass the previous December champ -- the Will Smith's epic "I Am Legend," which scared up $77.2 million in 2007.
"The Return of the King," the last film in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, earned $8 million at midnight showings and $72 million over opening weekend in December of 2003.
"The Hobbit" takes place decades before the events in "LOTR," and stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, an features "LOTR" vets Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee, plus newcomers Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch.