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The first movie in The Hobbit trilogy had the fifth best opening day on record in New Zealand cinemas and the third best opening weekend of 2012.
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey earned $782,695 on its opening day, and $2.036 million over the four days to Sunday, Motion Picture Distributors Association of NZ said.
Top of the one-day table was The Avengers, which earned $1.02m on its opening day in April. Best opening weekend earner this year was Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 with $2.241m.
In second place in the latest four day "weekend" was Skyfall, which took in $279,989, taking its total over the four weeks since it was released to $5.843m.
In North America, The Hobbit set a December movie record for box office sales of US$84.77 million (NZ$100.30m).
Warner Bros is aiming to build on the success of the Rings series, one of Hollywood's biggest franchises with US$2.9 billion (NZ$3.43b) in global ticket sales.
The Lord of the Rings movies debuted in theaters from 2001 to 2003. After that, production on The Hobbit ran into delays, leaving fans waiting a decade for another look at the fantasy story of dwarves, wizards and elves.
The opening weekend Hobbit sales proved interest remained high. North American (US and Canadian) receipts toppled the old record for December set by Will Smith sci-fi flick I Am Legend, which pulled in US$77.2 million when it debuted in 2007.
"The best we were hoping for was to reach or exceed the US$77 million 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 US$110 million (NZ$130.16m) in the bank before the holiday even starts," he added.
The new film follows the epic journey of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, as he travels through the treacherous Middle Earth with a band of dwarves to steal treasures from the dragon Smaug.
The movie also stars Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch, while Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Elijah Wood reprise their Rings roles.
Opening-weekend audiences embraced The Hobbit, awarding an "A" grade in polling by survey firm CinemaScore. Critics had a mixed response to the nearly three-hour film.
Sixty-five percent of reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website recommended the movie, although some objected to Jackson's decision to shoot it using a 48-frames-per-second format rather than the usual 24.
- Stuff and Reuters