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Middle-earth landed back in the U.S. in a big way Tuesday night as the final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies, began hitting theaters starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The film, directed by Peter Jackson, earned a very strong $11.2 million Tuesday in late-night shows. It’s expected to gross between $70 million and $75 million, although some box-office insiders say it could go as high as $80 million.
Box-office comparisons to the previous Hobbit films won’t be exactly parallel as the first two came out on Fridays. But the previous film, The Desolation of Smaug, earned $8.8 million in late-night shows when it opened in December 2013. Smaug went on to earn $73.6 million in its debut weekend, and hit a final tally of $958.4 million worldwide. The first installment, An Unexpected Journey, took in $13 million in late-night shows and opened in December 2012 to $84.6 million on its way to a grand total of $1 billion.
There is still the possibility that The Battle of the Five Armies will earn higher than the expected range for the weekend as fans could turn out in droves to say goodbye to the Tolkien franchise. But the New Line and MGM film faces tougher competition than its predecessors during a crowded holiday season, which includes Sony’s family film Annie and Fox’s Night at the Museum sequel, both opening Friday, and musical Into the Woods, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Paramount’s The Gambler and The Interview (the film at the center of the Sony hack attack) next weekend.
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