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Box Office Report: 'The Hobbit' Eyeing $82 Million-Plus Domestic Opening

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Running in Field - H 2012
Warner Bros. Pictures

Peter Jackson's 3D fantasy-adventure could even near $90 million, but there's some concern that the school shooting in Connecticut could dampen family traffic at the multipex.

New Line and MGM's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is now expected to score the biggest  December opening of all time in North America.

Peter Jackson's 3D fantasy-adventure -- set 60 years before the events chronicled in The Lord of the Rings -- is pacing to debut in the $82 million to $90 million range, easily besting the $77.2 million opening of Will Smith's I Am Legend on the same weekend in 2007.

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Box office observers, however, are cautioning that the elementary school shooting in Newton, Conn., that left 26 people dead, including 20 children, could dampen moviegoing among families. The killing rampage is a reminder of the mass theater shooting in Colorado last summer that left 12 dead and 58 others injured.

Hobbit, distributed by Warner Bros., is pacing to gross $37 million to $40 million on Friday, including a December-best $13 million in midnight business.

PHOTOS: 'The Hobbit': 17 New Posters Introduce Characters Going on 'An Unexpected Journey'

The movie has earned $27.3 million in its first two days of play overseas, where it began rolling out on Wednesday. It's the first title in a planned trilogy and is based on J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit.

Starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and returning Ian McKellen in the role of the wizard Gandalf.