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Boffo box office as slew of Christmas movies opens

By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The holiday season's new films drew crowds of people to theaters on Wednesday to make it the second highest-grossing Christmas Day on record for the U.S. and Canadian box office, according to estimates from box office tracking site Rentrak.

Yesterday's box office haul was estimated at between $76.5 and $78 million, topping 2012's $74.9 million Christmas day earnings.

It was led by the Tolkien-based "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which took in $9.3 million for a total of $149.9 million since its opening on December 13. "The Wolf of Wall Street" was right behind with $9.2 million on its first day in theaters.

Cult comedy Ron Burgundy sequel "Anchorman 2" took in $8.1 million for third place. Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" took $7.8 million on its first day in theaters to put it in fourth place for Christmas Day. Crime drama "American Hustle" rounded out the top five with $7.4 million.

Other Christmas debuts included Keanu Reeves' "47 Ronin," which opened with $7 million, boxing movie "Grudge Match" which earned $4 million, and "Justin Bieber's Believe" which took in $1.3 million.

Rentrak's senior box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian chalked up this Christmas' box office success to the number and variety of new releases, as well as the sheer number of people who decided to go see them.

"The combination of new films, popular holdovers and indie hits provided an irresistible feast for moviegoers who flocked to the multiplex after enjoying holiday festivities," he said.

The year 2009 holds the record for the biggest Christmas Day in domestic box office history with $86.6 million. The record was propelled by a very strong showing by "Sherlock Holmes," which was one of seven films that opened that day.

Christmas weekend marks the culmination of a slew of highly anticipated films being released, and studios eagerly await box office numbers. And for some, awards nominations for their efforts.

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" and "Grudge Match" were distributed by Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner Inc. "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Anchorman 2" were distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was distributed by Fox, a unit of 21st Century Fox. "American Hustle" was distributed by Sony. "47 Ronin" was distributed by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp. "Justin Bieber: Believe" was distributed by Open Road Films, a joint venture of AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment.

(Editing by Gunna Dickson)

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