The Hobbit scores record opening at US box office

A scene from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey British actor Martin Freeman stars in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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The Hobbit film has set a record for December, taking $84.8m (£52.4m) in its opening weekend at the US box office.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey outperformed the $72.7m (£44.9m) US debut of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Peter Jackson's previous best opening in December 2003.

In second place was the animated family film Rise of the Guardians with $7.4m (£4.6m), according to studio estimates.

Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the US president made $7.2m (£4.4m).

The previous record for December was set by the sci-fi film, I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, which pulled in $77.2m (£47.7m) when it debuted in 2007, although this figure has not been adjusted for inflation.

NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE

1. The Hobbit: $84.8 million

2. Rise of the Guardians: $7.4 million

3. Lincoln: $7.2 million

4. Skyfall: $7.0 million

5. Life of Pi: $5.4 million

Source: Hollywood.com

"The best we were hoping for was to reach or exceed the $77m set by that movie and we did it by quite a lot. It was all good and we're very happy about it," said Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner Bros.

"You have to assume that by the time this first week is over we are going to have around $110 million in the bank before the holiday even starts," he added.

Earnings for The Hobbit were bolstered by preview screenings on Wednesday and Thursday along with different screening formats such as 3D and Imax which have higher ticket prices.

Internationally, The Hobbit took $138 million in its first 5 days across 56 markets, with worldwide takings for the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy at just under $223m (£137.7m) on Sunday, according to Warner Bros.

The film also set a record with its earnings from Imax theatres worldwide, taking $15.1m (£9.3m) according to Warner.

Starring Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, it was the only new weekend release at North American theatres.

James Bond movie Skyfall, which has been playing for six weeks, fell from the top spot to fourth place in the box office chart with $7m (£4.3m).

Life of Pi followed in fifth with $5.4m (£3.3m), while The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 earned $5.2m (£3.2m).

The Hobbit, which follows the epic journey of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, played by Freeman, is the first of three films based on a 1937 classic novel by JRR Tolkien.

The next two movies in the franchise are scheduled to hit cinemas in December 2013 and July 2014.

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