Industry experts expect "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,"
opening widely at U.S. theaters on Friday, to ring up $80
million in its first weekend at the North American box office.
Out of the $8.8 million made from midnight showings, $1.25
million came from IMAX screenings of the film in 3D.
Made for a $250 million budget, the film is likely to be one of
the year's highest-grossing films, with $1 billion expected in
worldwide ticket sales.
"Desolation of Smaug," the second in director Peter Jackson's
cinematic trilogy based on author J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novel
"The Hobbit," follows hobbit Bilbo Baggins as he continues on
his treacherous quest with 13 dwarves to the Lonely Mountain,
guarded by a fire-breathing dragon, Smaug.
The first installment, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," rung
up more than $300 million at the U.S. box office after its
release in December 2012, and more than $1 billion worldwide.
The final film, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," is due in
theaters in December 2014.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy;
editing by Patricia Reaney and Vicki Allen)
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