TOLKIEN tragics and those that just enjoy the odd tale from Middle-earth packed out Ballarat cinemas yesterday.
It turned into a clash of near-mythical proportions with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey sharing a line-up with Australian heartthrob Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables.
Regent Cinemas manager Stewart Moors said Ballarat boasted its biggest Boxing Day patron numbers in a decade – topping the usual December 26 average of 2600 movie-goers, and that was before the evening sessions really cranked up.
“It’s a pretty steady day every year. ,” Mr Moors said.
“The Hobbit’s definitely our biggest film this year but Les Mis is not far behind.”
More than just sci-fi fans lined up to watch the home-loving Bilbo Baggins. It seemed Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, set 60 years after this Hobbit quest, was pulling back in plenty of interested onlookers who made a tradition of watching Frodo on the big screen each Boxing Day.
Only, this year was missing something.
“It’s the first year we haven’t had anyone really dress up for this,” Mr Moors said.
No pointy ears, no bare feet. Not even a Gandalf-inspired cape for the gold class, 3D or economy viewing options available.
But, there is no reason to lose hope.This Hobbit feature is the first of a Jackson trilogy detailing the book.
Hard-core fans told this reporter, An Unexpected Journey covers the first six chapters and strayed a little from the book with the odd rabbit through the countryside (apparently the Hobbits do not have rabbits in their countryside).
The general consensus was appreciative.
“It was good. Really slow at the start and stretched out the storyline far, but it was a good movie,” Tolkien fan Tim Nyman said.
Bilbo is lured into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Wizard Gandalf the Grey helps Bilbo into a company of 13 dwarves led by legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield (played by Richard Armitage, which for this Hobbit novice would be worth almost three hours staring at the big screen).
There are goblins and that precious ring.
Boxing Day movie releases are fast becoming a tradition rivaling bargain shopping and the MCG mecca the day after Christmas as film-goers race to be among the first to watch the latest summer blockbusters and let their Christmas dinners settle while spending quality time with popcorn.
Ballarat also drew a lot of Boxing Day movie first-timers like the Connors family to the cinemas who saw Parental Guidance.
They said Regent Cinemas was well-prepared and kept lines moving.
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