‘The Hobbit’ Tops Box Office With Record-Breaking $84.7 Million

The first of Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' prequel trilogy broke December opening records.

There was one movie to rule them all over the weekend as “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” broke December opening records.

The first part of filmmaker Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel trilogy was the #1 movie in North America with an estimated $84.7 million debut, outgrossing the previous December record holder, 2007′s “I Am Legend.” Pricier 3-D screenings accounted for 49 percent of the business done by “The Hobbit.” IMAX screenings were $10.1 million of the film’s gross. “The Hobbit” made $13 million Thursday night as fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien novel lined up for midnight screenings; $37.5 million came in Friday; $28.15 million Saturday.

Many industry forecasters predicted the film would break $100 million over the weekend, although the studio’s own estimates were more conservative.

Once adjusted for ticket price inflation, “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” still holds the December opening record. The final entry in the “LOTR” trilogy opened on a Wednesday and was without the benefit of 3-D ticket prices. It also held on stronger than “The Hobbit” from day-to-day. Each of Jackson’s “LOTR” movies scored a critical average above 90 percent, according to Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates reviews from film critics. By comparison, “The Hobbit” sat at 65 percent at press time. Nevertheless, audiences rewarded it with a CinemaScore of “A.”

“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy earned more than $2.91 billion worldwide and racked up 17 Academy Awards. “The Hobbit” didn’t earn any Golden Globe nominations, which would seem to be an early indication it will be Oscar-less. The coming weeks will prove whether “The Hobbit” faithful will be enough to push the new trilogy to similar heights. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is set to be released next year, with the third film to follow in 2014.

None of the other films in theaters compared to “The Hobbit” in terms of grosses, but “Rise of the Guardians” managed to surprise by edging out “Lincoln” for the #2 slot. If weekend estimates hold up, the difference was less than $200,000, but it was an impressive feat nevertheless for the costly DreamWorks flick. The closer proximity to the holidays no doubt drove interest in the animated movie, which includes Santa Claus as a character. “Guardians” has collected $71.36 domestically and $119.4 million internationally against a reported $145 million budget.

Disney’s “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis as America’s 16th president, was #3 with $7.24 million, just barely behind the $7.42 million of “Guardians.” The movie expanded into another 271 locations over the weekend, but was still playing in roughly 1100 less than “Guardians” (“The Hobbit” was in nearly twice as many). “Lincoln” joined the long list of Steven Spielberg movies to cross the $100 million mark. It’s made $107.9 million domestically. “Lincoln” was nominated in seven Golden Globes categories (including Best Drama), more than any other film this year.

The biggest James Bond film thus far, “Skyfall,” was #4 with $7 million. Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007 has made $272.3 domestically, putting it behind only “Marvel’s The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2″ for 2012 grosses. 2012 is expected to set a new yearly record.

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”