The first instalment in the Hobbit trilogy has led a record day in Australian cinemas as Peter Jackson beat his own mark to claim the largest Boxing Day release ever.
Australia's largest film exhibitor, Event Cinemas, posted its biggest day's trading on record, with business up 69 per cent on Boxing Day last year and higher than any other individual day in the company's more than 100-year history.
Jackson's film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was the chief lure, drawing in $5,925,000 in one day to record the third biggest opening day ever, behind the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($7,092,000) and 2012's biggest movie, The Avengers ($6,004,000).
Unlike the other two films, The Hobbit managed its opening day result without midnight screenings and despite opening on a smaller number of screens, debuting on 560 screens compared with 727 screens for Potter and 621 screens for The Avengers.
The all-time Boxing Day podium remains entirely populated by Peter Jackson's movies, as The Hobbit took top spot over the three films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, with 2003's Return of the King the previous record holder with a box office gross of $5,287,000, followed by 2002's Two Towers ($5,229,000) and 2001's Fellowship of the Ring ($4,121,000).
Despite Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Tom Hooper and Sir Cameron Mackintosh attending a big Australian premiere last week, Les Miserables was unable to challenge for top spot, opening at No. 2 with takings of $1,820,000. The third biggest film of the day was Disney's Wreck-It Ralph, which grossed $1,145,000 The all-ages comedy Parental Guidance opened in fourth place.
The result for the cinemas marks a reverse in traditional cinema box office logic.
At 169 minutes and 157 minutes respectively, the two biggest drawcards are both very long movies, with feature films lasting 90-100 minutes on average. Once pre-screening advertisements and trailers are included the sessions for each film last more than two and a half hours. Yet where longer durations used to mean fewer sessions in a day, and thus lower takings, the advent of premium cinema experiences has seemingly provided a solution.
"The nature of these films plays to Gold Class," said Event Cinemas sales director Kristie Atkins, who suggests the length of these films helps people justify the added expense of Gold Class tickets as they seek "more comfortable seats and waiters bringing drinks around".
Event Cinemas reports that 30 per cent of the box office on Boxing Day came from Vmax and Gold Class sessions despite the smaller number of tickets available for those sessions. Pre-sales for Gold Class and Vmax tickets are at record levels for the coming weeks.
* At the time of publishing, $1 AUD = $1.26 NZD.
- Sydney Morning Herald