It looks like the air was thick with "Smaug" on Thursday night as the second part of director Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy rolled into theaters.
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," a production of New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros., made $8.8 million in ticket sales from midnight showings, according to studio estimates, indicating a strong start for the big-budget movie that continues the fantasy adventure of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey and the dwarves and elves of Middle Earth.
That's the second biggest December midnight haul ever, coming up shy of last year's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." That first "Hobbit" film generated $13 million in ticket sales in its Thursday night debut and went on to make $84.6 million in its first weekend.
The new movie, based on the beloved book by J.R.R. Tolkien, is expected to make roughly $80 million through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, possibly falling short of its predecessor.
About $1.25 million of "Smaug's" Thursday treasure came from IMAX showings.
The critical reception for "Smaug" has been better than "Unexpected Journey," in general. Whereas the 2012 movie scored a 65% "fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes, "Smaug" currently is rated 74% "fresh."
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