THE Hobbit met the heavy expectations placed on it, becoming the biggest Boxing Day opening in Australian history.

The film grossed $5.9 million on its opening day, making it the third biggest one-day gross for a film ever behind The Avengers and the final instalment of Harry Potter.

It was a bumper Boxing Day for cinemas, with Event Cinemas and Birch Carol and Coyle enjoying their biggest trading day ever, smashing the record set in 2009 with the releases of Avatar and Sherlock Holmes.

Business was up almost 70 percent on last year's Boxing Day, with 18 sites setting new box office records.

The Hobbit was largely responsible for the $9.7 million grossed by the seven Boxing Day releases.

Les Miserables and Wreck-It Ralph rounded out the top three releases, both earning more than $1 million.

The Hobbit has grossed more than $180 million in the US, where it was released on December 16, and more than $244 million worldwide.

The first film in Peter Jackson's new trilogy, which is the prequel to his successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit stars Martin Freeman as central character Bilbo Baggins.

Reprising their Lord of the Rings roles are Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Andy Serkis as Gollum and Elijah Wood as Frodo.

The film, which was shot in 3D at 48 frames per second, has already been shortlisted for an Oscar nomination for visual effects.


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