Fans are rushing back to Middle-earth one last time. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armiesopened to a very strong $24.5 million Wednesday.
The film, the final installment in Peter Jackson‘s Hobbit trilogy, will top the domestic box office with a $70 million to $75 million five-day debut. Opening in 3,875 locations this weekend, the New Line and MGM project’s big Wednesday number includes the $11.2 million from Tuesday’s late-night showings.
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 $73.6 million in its debut weekend, and hit a final tally of $958.4 million worldwide. The first installment, An Unexpected Journey, opened in December 2012 to $84.6 million on its way to a grand total of $1 billion.
Internationally, Five Armies has also been doing brisk business, opening in 37 markets last weekend to a strong $122.2 million.
There is still the possibility that 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 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 and Paramount’s The Gambler next weekend.
Family musical Annie is expected to earn in the $15 million range while Fox’s Night at the Museumshould gross $25 million or slightly higher.