By that time, there's a good chance Peter Jackson's Middle-earth epic will be closing in on $1 billion at the worldwide box office. It's currently at $892 million worldwide, with the bulk of that - $608 million - coming from international ticket sales.
Warner Bros. has known since last month that a date somewhere in mid- to-late February was likely for the release in China. There had been earlier concern that the run of "The Hobbit" would coincide or overlap with the debut of the Sony James Bond movie "Skyfall." The Bond movie will open on January 21, in advance of China's Golden Week holiday festivities that begin February 9.
Chinese officials are aggressively protecting their domestic film industry, in some cases by slotting major U.S. films against each other to reduce their box-office impact.