There's something inherently special about going to the midnight debut of a big movie. The tension in the air over getting the perfect seats inevitably mellows to a feeling of electric, shared anticipation as you sit, surrounded by like-minded fans, waiting to be awed by whatever adventure is about to play out on that big bright screen. More important than this theater-wide harmony to the suits in Hollywood is just how many people felt their production was a big enough event to seek out its very first screening. Well, we told you The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was going to be big, and now we're getting our first data on just how big.

The Wrap reports The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug screened in 3,000 theaters nationwide last night, and midnight showings of the sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came to $8.8 million by studio estimates with roughly $1.25 million of that coming from IMAX screenings. With these early figures, it is predicted that the film will boast an opening-weekend box office tally of $75-80 million dollars this weekend. Last weekend's number one spot went to Disney's Frozen with just $31 million (in its third week), which suggests The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will trounce both this animated musical as well as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, coming into its fourth week. That all seems to be good news. The bad news is the first Hobbit movie did better.

When it opened at midnight on Dec. 14, 2012, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey did so to the rousing tune of $13 million, making it the biggest midnight debut December has ever seen. Coming in at second place is The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Over the course of its opening weekend, An Unexpected Journey went on to make $84.6 million, which is considerably higher than its sequel is even expected to hit. All this suggests fans' fervor over the series is waning, which is actually a shame. For one thing, the third film The Hobbit: There and Back Again is already in the can and set for its debut on Dec. 17, 2014, regardless. And for another, despite my issues with its meandering storytelling, I'd say the second installment of this trilogy is actually far more entertaining than the first.

So, are audiences tiring of the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien? Or is a nearly three-hour long movie just too much to deal with for many would-be midnight movie-goers? The Wrap notes The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Iron Man 3 boasted way higher "midnight" debuts, at $25 mil and $15.6M, respectively. However, these releases actually opened a few hours before midnight, which may have made them a bit more marketable to people who aren't dedicated night owls. Whether you didn't see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug last night, or aren't planning to see it this weekend, tell us why in comments.

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