The Hobbit is set for a successful release, with US projections putting it on track to match the final Lord of the Rings film in opening weekend box-office takings.
The film opened at midnight in New Zealand cinemas and will roll out in the US on Friday.
Projections from advance ticket sales have it headed for an $83 million opening in US takings alone, trade paper The Hollywood Reporter says.
That puts it on pace to match Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which made $72.6 million in North America on its opening weekend.
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It would eclipse both Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, which took $65 million and $55 million respectively.
Marvel's recent blockbuster The Avengers holds the record for the biggest ever opening weekend after making nearly $250 million.
Movies released in December generally having slower releases in the US.
The Hobbit could exceed expectations because it has the advantage of being released in 3D, The Hollywood Reporter said.
It also is the first film to feature the intriguing, if controversial, technique of filming at 48 frames per second - twice the normal Hollywood rate.
- Herald Online