‘Hobbit’ hearty in New Zealand bow

Journey starts in Peter Jackson's home as expected: boffo

“The Hobbit” embarked on its worldwide journey today from Peter Jackson’s home country New Zealand, where the film grossed a hearty $643,000 — the largest non-holiday Wednesday opening locally.

Warner Bros. launches the first “Hobbit” installment, “An Unexpected Journey,” in 55 total markets this weekend.

Pic’s other early bows include France, Belgium and Scandinavia, followed by Germany and Italy on Thursday. The only major territories not opening this weekend are China, Russia and Australia.

Warners hosted the world preem of “The Hobbit” Nov. 28 in New Zealand.

The film, which bows Stateside Friday at 4,045 locations — the most for a December opening — including 3,100 Thursday midnight screenings, has been tracking aggressively with projections north of $100 million domestically.

Domestic box office has been unusually robust of late, despite a lack of new entries, which also should boost “Hobbit” prospects.

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