NEW YORK -- Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" led the box office with an opening of $84.8 million, a start better than the three previous "Lord of the Rings" films.
Studio estimates Sunday had the Warner Bros. 3-D epic as the biggest December opening ever, surpassing Will Smith's "I Am Legend," which opened with $77.2 million in 2007.
Despite generally poor reviews, the adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's first novel in the fantasy series was an even bigger draw than the last "Lord of the Rings" films, "The Return of the King." That film opened with $72.6 million.
While Jackson's "Rings" movies drew many Oscar nominations, the path for "The Hobbit" has been rockier. It received no Golden Globes nominations on Thursday. Its 48-frames-per-second, double the usual rate, also has been criticized.