On Friday it looked like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey might have a hard time topping the all-time biggest December release record belonging to I Am Legend. Today, with the full Friday numbers in, it's clear it's not even a contest. Based on Friday estimates The Hobbit should make around $96 million over the weekend in North America, shattering I Am Legend's $77 million and becoming the biggest opening for any movie set in Middle Earth.

According to Deadline, Warner Bros. insiders are doing the usual studio thing of lowballing their own film, hoping not to set up too high expectations that they can't meet. Either way it's a huge hit, though if you crunch the numbers compared to Lord of the Rings, they're more similar than you might think. According to Box Office Guru's Gitesh Pandya, the audience for The Hobbit is actually smaller than the one for Return of the King, when you factor in the fact that the previous film opened on a Wednesday and didn't benefit from higher 3D prices. The Hobbit is definitely a huge financial success, but it may not be on track to be the same kind of cultural phenomenon as its predecessors.

We'll have the full weekend box office rundown for you tomorrow, but in the meantime, let us know what you're seeing this weekend and if The Hobbit lived up to your expectations. And if you'd like to join a blow-by-blow conversation about the entire movie, click here.

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