By Bill Wine

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There was nothing middling about the latest Middle-Earth adventure at the box office.

As expected, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – director Peter Jackson’s prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy — ran away to a distant first-place finish on its debut weekend, earning an estimated $85 million, which sets the record for a December opening.

No other title amassed as much as $8 million, as holdovers Rise of the Guardians, Lincoln, Skyfall, and Life of Pi rounded out the top five with modest returns.

Overall, industry-wide totals were slightly ahead of the same weekend last year.

Tickets sales should remain brisk next weekend as Jack Reacher, The Guilt Trip, and This Is 40 help to kick the holiday movie season into a higher gear.