Peter Jackson's long-awaited movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has shot to the top of the UK box office, taking US$18.5 million during its first weekend on release.
Fans of the mystical adventure had to wait 10 years to see the much-delayed The Lord of The Rings prequel, starring Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen, which was held up when the MGM film studio fell into financial difficulty.
Jackson also had to battle a dispute with an actors' union and a personal health crisis as he struggled to get the three-part blockbuster made, but fans proved it was worth the wait as the first film of the trilogy can now boast the title of the fifth-biggest opener of 2012 in Britain.
The Hobbit was behind Daniel Craig's Skyfall, vampire epic The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and super hero-packed The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers in the list of the year's biggest movies in Britain.
In this weekend's box office figures, Rise of the Guardians was a distant second taking in US$2 million, while festive film Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger! rose two places to third with US$1.5 million.
James Bond movie Skyfall raked in US$1.3 million to land fourth on the rundown, while Disney's Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings debuted at five with US$846,112.