Critics might not have enjoyed Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth, but moviegoers certainly didn't shy away from the 2 hour and 49 minute epic.  "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," rhe first of three "Hobbit" films, opened this weekend to a staggering $84.8 million over the three-day frame. That's makes "An Unexpected Journey" the biggest opening ever in December surpassing "I Am Legend's" $77.2 million in 2007.  Audiences also endorsed the adventure flick giving it an 'A' Cinemascore rating. At this point, 'An Unexpected Journey' is seen as the clear first choice among moviegoers for the holiday season and it should dominate through New Year's.

Breaking ahead of a trio of films grossing just over $7 million second is DreamWorks Animations' "Rise of the Guardians." The 3D animated epic took in another $7.4 million for $71.3 million so far. It should eventually cross the $100 million mark, but it's going to take a few more weeks to do it.

"Lincoln" took the third spot with $7.2 million and $107.8 million to date.. With 7 Golden Globes nominations and a slew of Oscar nods expected on Jan. 10, the Steven Spielberg drama should eventually end up somewhere between $160-170 million domestic.

Not far behind in fourth place is Sam Mendes' "Skyfall."  The highest grossing 007 film of all time took in a flat $7 million for $272.3 million to date.  Surpassing $300 million and $1 billion worldwide is almost guaranteed at this point.

Another Oscar contender, "Life of Pi," finished in the fifth slot with $5.4 million and $69.5 million to date.

New releases on Wednesday include "The Guilt Trip," "Monsters, Inc 3D" and both "Amour" and "Zero Dark Thirty" in limited release.  On Friday, "Jack Reacher," "This is Forty" and Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away" open nationwide. "The Impossible," "Not Fade Away" and "On The Road" will debut in limited release.

Final box office actuals are released on Monday.