Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is off to a record start at North American box offices despite mixed reviews.
The Hobbit earned $US13 million ($NZ15.42 million) from midnight showings at 3100 locations in North America when it opened at 12:01am on Friday, US time. This was a per-theatre average of $US4193.
The figure is a record for a December release and beats the $US8 million earned from midnight runs of Sir Peter's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003, but it doesn't make the top-ten highest-grossing midnight screening of all time, according to Hollywood.com.
Observers expect The Hobbit to gross between $US75 million and $US90 million during its opening weekend in North America, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This may make it the top December weekend opening of all time, eclipsing the $US77.2 million opening of Will Smith's I Am Legend in 2007.
The Hobbit also has sales of $US27.3 million in 42 international markets since its overseas debut on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
Sir Peter's Lord of the Rings movies, released from 2001 to 2003, brought in $US2.9 billion at global box offices.
The Hobbit follows the epic journey of Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, and is based on the classic novels by JRR Tolkien.
A review in The New York Times said the expansion of the book into three movies felt arbitrary and mercenary.
Sir Peter had embraced "theme-park-ride cinema", and the movie rose "to weary, belated mediocrity", the review said.