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Quick Takes: 'Hobbit' starts out strong at box office

December 15, 2012

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" took in $13 million from screenings at or soon after midnight Thursday in the U.S. and Canada, getting off to a healthy start for what should be a huge weekend at the box office for director Peter Jackson's widely anticipated movie.

Though big, the performance of the "Lord of the Rings" prequel did not come close to other movies that premiered in the darkness. The all-time No. 1 is "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2," which in July 2011 took in $43.5 million before the sun rose.

In fact, "The Hobbit" did not make the top 10 midnight grossers, a list that includes two other "Potter" pictures, four "Twilight" sequels, "The Dark Knight Rises," "The Hunger Games" and "The Avengers."

The last time Jackson visited Middle-earth, "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" grossed $8 million from midnight showings in December 2003, a record at the time.

Expectations remain optimistic throughout Hollywood that Warner Bros.' and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "The Hobbit" will open to more than $100 million by the end of the weekend, buffeted by premium ticket prices for Imax and 3-D showings.

"The Hobbit" is also off to a robust start overseas, where it is ultimately expected to collect much more than in the U.S. and Canada. It grossed $27.3 million from 42 foreign markets on Wednesday and Thursday, with the highest takes in Britain, France, Germany and South Korea.

—Ben Fritz

L.A. Reid will be an ex judge

Music mogul L.A. Reid has announced that he won't be back for Season 3 of Fox's "The X Factor" and will instead devote his energies to the music label he runs for Sony. The TV singing contest was created by Simon Cowell, who also serves as a judge.

"Of course, I will miss the show," Reid told the Hollywood Reporter. "In my opinion, Simon attracts the best talent, but I'm looking forward to getting back to my core business and the responsibility of running Epic Records."

Reid is the chief executive of Epic. When he joined the show last year, he left his post running Def Jam Music Group.

Reid's departure will make Cowell the sole remaining judge from Season 1; he had dumped judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger.

This year's panel includes Britney Spears and Demi Lovato. It's unclear whether they'll return for Season 3.

—Scott Collins

Swift birthday wisher arrested

A man took a bus from Wisconsin to Nashville, climbed a fence at a home linked to singer Taylor Swift on Friday and told police he was there to surprise a woman on her birthday, authorities said. He has been jailed on a trespassing charge.

The singer, who is overseas, turned 23 Thursday. Court documents show Jacob Nicholas Kulke, 24, of Marshfield, Wis., was arrested early Friday after climbing a fence and gate.

The affidavit did not identify the property owner, and Swift's spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the home was linked to the family, but several websites and newspapers have tied the property to Swift.

The affidavit said Kulke claimed he was in contact with a person at the home through social media and it was Swift's birthday, so he wanted to surprise her because he was dating her.

—Associated Press

Hirst, Gagosian parting ways

Their business partnership lasted nearly two decades, but even in the art world, all things must come to an end.

Superstar artist Damien Hirst is parting company with his longtime dealer Larry Gagosian.

The split comes several months after Hirst's spot-painting project that took over all 11 Gagosian galleries around the world.

The gallery issued a statement Thursday saying that it "has been a great honor to work with Damien over the last 17 years.... We wish him continued success for the future."

—David Ng

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