LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The highly anticipated "Hobbit" fantasy movie won the weekend box office race with an estimated $84.7 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales, a record debut for December.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is the first of three films based on a classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The "Hobbit" movies are prequels to the blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" trilogy that brought in $3 billion worldwide when the films played in theaters a decade ago.
Sales for the new "Hobbit" movie toppled the old record for December set by Will Smith sci-fi flick "I Am Legend," which pulled in $77.2 million over its opening weekend in 2007.
In second place for the weekend was "Rise of the Guardians," which earned $7.4 million, followed by historical drama "Lincoln" starring Daniel Day-Lewis, which grabbed $7.2 million from Friday through Sunday, according to studio estimates.
James Bond movie "Skyfall" landed in fourth place with $7 million.
Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. studio distributed "The Hobbit." The movie was produced by MGM and Warner Bros. unit New Line Cinema. "Lincoln" was produced by Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Co. Sony Corp's movie studio released "Skyfall."
(Reporting By Lisa Richwine and Patricia Reaney)