'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' surpasses $1 billion

Galadriel (Cate Blanchett, left) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) share a moment "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture, © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. (US, Canada & New Line Foreign Territories) © 201

Galadriel (Cate Blanchett, left) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) share a moment "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

LOS ANGELES — Warner Bros.’ New Line division may be let down over the underwhelming opening of its big-budget “Jack the Giant Slayer,” but at least the company has something else to celebrate: This past weekend “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” surpassed $1 billion.

The first in Peter Jackson’s 3-D film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel on Sunday became the 15th film to gross more than $1 billion at the global box office. Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is also a member of the club; the 2003 release ended up with a worldwide tally of $1.1 billion.

When “The Hobbit” debuted in the U.S. and Canada in December, its $84.6 million launch was far below what industry polling had suggested the film would start with. However, the movie proved it had legs and ended up grossing $301.4 million domestically.

But it was its phenomenal overseas performance that turned the $250 million production into a hit. The movie about a hobbit trying to save dwarfs from a dragon has sold $700 million worth of tickets internationally — roughly 70 percent of its overall gross. Its recent performance in China helped to push “The Hobbit” past $1 billion, as it collected $37.3 million in 10 days. The movie did best, however, in Germany and the United Kingdom, grossing more than $80 million in each foreign market.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second entry in Jackson’s trilogy, is set to hit theaters Dec. 13. Last week, however, Warner Bros. announced that the third installment, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” would be released later than expected. It was initially set to debut in July 2014 but will be released in December 2014.

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