The Hobbit breaks December box office record

Peter Jackson's new Tolkien epic heading for box office glory

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' has broken the all-time US box office record for December.

It's three-day opening weekend hauled in $84.8 million (£52.4 million), beating the previous December record, that of the Will Smith-starring 'I Am Legend' in 2007, which made $77.2 million (£47.7 million).

[Related story: The Hobbit Vs. The Lord of the Rings]

The Hobbit... already breaking records (Copyright: Warner Bros)

The film, directed by Peter Jackson and the first of three installments made from Tolkien's classic novel, made an additional $138 million (£85.3 million) around the world, bringing its total to $223 million (£137.8 million) in all.

It's thought it could go on to haul in four times its opening weekend figure over the Christmas period, and it's already beaten Jackson's previous takings for 'The Return of the King', which made around $72 million on its opening weekend in 2003.

But unlike Jackson's celebrated, Oscar-winning 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, this first outing has been less well received by critics – who have given the big-budget blockbuster a mixed response.

Reviews aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 65% fresh rating, compared with 94% for 'The Return of the King', 96% for 'The Two Towers' and 92% for 'The Fellowship of the Ring'.

But audiences have voted with their feet, while influencial US market research company CinemaScore found it given a resounding A+ score by cinema-goers.