“Hobbit” fans have returned in force to U.S. theaters with the finale, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” taking in a formidable $24.5 million at 3,875 locations on its opening day.
The Wednesday figure includes an impressive $11.2 million from Tuesday night pre-shows.
The final movie in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth saga — financed by New Line and MGM — has been projected to pull in between $70 million and $75 million over its first five days in U.S. theaters. “Five Armies” had already opened in 37 foreign markets and earned an impressive $122.2 million last weekend.
The previous Hobbit films debuted on Fridays. “An Unexpected Journey” grossed $84.6 million in 2012 on its first weekend and “The Desolation of Smaug” took in $73.6 million in its initial weekend last year. The two “Hobbit” films have combined for nearly $2 billion at the global box office.
The $24.5 million U.S. bow for “Five Armies” represents the 12th largest on record for a Wednesday. “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” set the Wednesday record in 2010 with $68 million; “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” opened with $34 million in 2003.
Unlike the first two films, “The Battle of the Five Armies” will face significant competition Friday when Sony opens “Annie” and Fox launches “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.” Distributors and exhibitors are hoping that the trio of new titles can rev up ticket sales — which trail 2013 by more than 5% — at a time that the industry is reeling from Sony’s decision on Wednesday to cancel “The Interview.”
“Secret of the Tomb” will open in 3,873 theaters, with forecasts in the $25 million to $28 million range. The “Annie” reboot looks likely to wind up somewhat lower, with the most bullish forecast at about $20 million.