Warner Bros. reports that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug earned an estimated $31.15 million on Friday, putting it on pace for a likely $75 million weekend. Those figures include the film’s $8.8 million earned from midnight shows, representing just over 28 percent of opening day grosses–an improvement over the 35 percent midnight share of opening day for last year’s An Unexpected Journey. IMAX accounted for 13 percent ($3.979 million) of Friday’s haul. Overall, Smaug‘s opening day was 16 percent lower than its predecessor ($37.1 million).
Smaug‘s projected opening weekend will end up close to expectations following what looked to be lower grosses last night. Winter weather may be affecting things, although the lower share of midnights indicates that fans may have indeed been the audience sector where the most upfront demand was lost (as opposed to general audiences) in the wake of last year’s mixed reception for the first Hobbit entry. Early word of mouth appears solid for Smaug so far with an “A-” CinemaScore and 88 percent of Flixster users liking or still anticipating seeing the film. With a crowded holiday schedule ahead, this second Hobbit pic is aiming to maintain most of its core family audience through Christmas and New Year’s while also bringing in stronger overseas sales than Journey.