Warner's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey debuted in first place this weekend with an estimated $84.78 million. In the process the film set a new record for the largest December opening weekend performance on record by topping the $77.21 million debut of 2007's I Am Legend. However, it should be noted that The Hobbit was unable to set a new record when adjusting for ticket price inflation. 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which opened with $72.63 million in unadjusted terms, still holds that mark with an adjusted figure of $95.6 million (and that was after opening on a Wednesday and without the advantage of higher priced 3D admissions).
The Hobbit was off to a very strong midnight start of $13.0 million on Friday, but didn't display the type of early holding power the Lord of the Rings films did in their respective first days of release. The Hobbit grossed $37.53 million for all of Friday, $28.15 million on Saturday and an estimated $19.10 million on Sunday. That placed the film's weekend to Friday ratio (after factoring Midnight grosses out) at 2.93 to 1. Granted they all had additional help from opening on a Wednesday, but ratios for the three Lord of the Rings films all fell within the range of 3.23 - 3.33 to 1. The early relative front-loading of The Hobbit (combined with higher ticket prices) is a sure sign that this weekend's debut was very fan driven. It will now be much more important for the film to hold up well throughout the holiday season. With not much for family audiences this month and the film being better received by audiences than it has been by critics (it earned an A rating on CinemaScore), it will have a good chance of being able to do so.
The Hobbit grossed $10.1 million from IMAX locations, which represented 11.9 percent of this weekend's take. 3D grosses represented 49 percent of this weekend's overall grosses. The film skewed towards male moviegoers (57 percent) and moviegoers over 25 (58 percent).
Internationally, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has grossed $138.2 million to date since it opened on Wednesday. The film opened in select markets on Wednesday and Thursday and played in 56 foreign markets over the weekend. The worldwide start for The Hobbit stands at $223.0 million.
Rise of the Guardians finished in a distant second with an estimated $7.42 million, but was down just 29 percent from last weekend. In general, most holdovers held up well this weekend, as there were clearly moviegoers looking for an alternative to The Hobbit. Rise of the Guardians continues to be helped out by both strong word of mouth and the ongoing holiday season and has now grossed $71.36 million to date. The film continues to perform stronger internationally, where it grossed $20.1 million this weekend. With an international total of $119.4 million, the worldwide haul stands at $190.8 million for Rise of the Guardians.
Lincoln placed in third with $7.24 million. The Golden Globe nominee for Best Drama was down only 19 percent from last weekend, as it greatly stabilized this weekend thanks in part to expanding into additional 271 locations. Lincoln has grossed $107.90 million to date, which makes it the 15th film directed by Steven Spielberg to gross at least $100 million domestically (without taking into account ticket price inflation).
Skyfall was down 35 percent and three spots from last weekend to take fourth with an estimated $7.0 million. The blockbuster 23rd installment of the James Bond franchise has now grossed $272.37 million to date, which currently ranks the film as the fifth highest grossing release of 2012 domestically.