New Zealand’s latest blockbuster movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has shattered box-office records and been given a resounding thumbs-up by audiences around the world.
The movie, first in Sir Peter Jackson’s new trilogy, had a record-breaking opening weekend in the US, which surpassed any of The Lord of the Rings films and was three times higher than Avatar - the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Takings of US$84.7 million in the first two days gave The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the biggest-ever December opening for the US and put global revenue at more than US$223 million.
Regardless of some critics' comments on the movie’s length and new 48-frames technology, it was a hit with audiences who graded the film with an "A" on CinemaScore.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was rolled out in 4045 cinemas across the US on Friday (14.12.2012) and opened in 56 other world-wide markets over the weekend. The Australian release is delayed until 26 December.
On public opening day (12.12.2012) in New Zealand, the film set a new box-office record earning NZ$782,695 in the first 24 hours. That beats The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which grossed $757,887 on opening day and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring which earned $720,993.
New Zealand reaction
New Zealand was first to screen the movie publicly and Roadshow Film Distributors managing director Joel Pearlman said the company was thrilled that it had already resonated so positively with so many New Zealanders.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was shown on 203 screens in 98 locations from Kaitaia in the north of the North Island to Invercargill on the southern point of the South Island - representing the widest release ever in New Zealand. That included 39 screens showing the film in the new 48 frames per second format.
Already the movie appears to be having an effect on tourism with fans keen to experience Middle-earth, first hand. Flight bookings to New Zealand through online travel site Expedia have increased 84%, up 50% compared to the same month last year, according to the UK's Daily Mail.
Another search engine, Skyscanner, revealed similar interest, saying Hobbit fever was responsible for a surge in searches to the destination of Wellington increasing by 117% compared to December 2011.
Air New Zealand, the "official airline of Middle-earth" had benefited from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey even before the movie release. Bookings from the United States almost doubled the day before the Wellington première and were up by a third in Japan following a special promotion.
Tourism New Zealand is spending $10 million promoting The Hobbit Trilogy and has won a world’s best travel award for its 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand campaign. The organisation took the award for ‘World’s Leading Destination Marketing Campaign’ at the World Travel Awards held in New Delhi.