Peter Jackson's final Hobbit film – (please God, say it's true) – has recorded the highest opening day box office of the year, and the fourth-highest opening day ever in Australia.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies narrowly topped the result for last year's second instalment in Jackson's second J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, taking $5.59 million on Boxing Day, according to figures released by distributor Village Roadshow.
The film was released on 605 screens, giving it a very respectable per-screen average of $9240.
Last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug took $5.554m on 628 screens, a slightly lower per screen average of $8844.
Strong though the latest showing is, it is still narrowly behind the result for the first Hobbit film, which took $5.9 million on 631 screens in 2012 ($9350 per screen).
The only films to have taken more on their first day of release in Australia than Jackson's first and third Hobbit films are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two ($7.092m on 727 screens) and The Avengers ($6.004m on 621 screens).
A Boxing Day without a Peter Jackson movie is a real rarity: since the first Lord of the Rings film in 2001, all but one of the Kiwi director's films have opened on Boxing Day (King Kong opened on December 14, 2005).
That often means Australian audiences have to wait a couple of weeks to see the latest Jackson, but it's a recipe that works: his movies now hold the record for the top six Boxing Day releases in Australian history – and given that Boxing Day is the biggest single day of the year by some measure, accounting for on average 7.7 per cent of annual box office since 2000, that's not to be sneezed at.
None of the other new releases on Boxing Day could come close to The Hobbit, but Disney's animation Big Hero 6 posted a $1.3 million haul to finish in second place while Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum 3, which also features one of the final performances from Robin Williams, took $1.1 million.
Also debuting was Russell Crowe's ambitious World War I epic The Water Diviner, which took an estimated $864,000 to be the fourth-highest-grossing movie of the day. His movie is also opening on 600 screens in Turkey.
The highest-grossing foreign-language film was the Isabelle Huppert comedy Folies Bergere, which took a little over $20,000 on Boxing Day, in its second week of release.
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