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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had just that at the Australian box office on Wednesday - becoming the biggest Boxing Day release in motion picture history.

Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of JRR Tolkien's novel grossed $5.925 million in Australia to claim the all-time Boxing Day top spot over the three films in the Lord of the Rings trilogy - Return of the King ($5.287m), Two Towers ($5.229m) and Fellowship of the Ring ($4.121m).

The Hobbit's results also make it the third biggest opening day of all time, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two ($7.092m on 727 screens) and this year's blockbuster The Avengers ($6.004m on 621 screens), and the biggest opening day result without midnight screenings.

The performance of The Hobbit was unexpected given its underwhelming opening in the US, where it took less than the Lord of the Rings films.

However, the film - which cost an estimated $173 million to make - has already grossed more than $456 million worldwide.

Les Miserables, starring Aussies Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, took $1.825 million on Wednesday to finish second among the Boxing Day releases.

Its total box office tally stands at $3.04 million after strong ticket sales for advance screenings at the weekend.

In contrast to The Hobbit, Les Miserables had a strong opening in the US, taking $17.5 million on Christmas Day - the best opening for a musical in North America and the fourth-highest Christmas Day box office takings of all time.

Disney's Wreck-it-Ralph was third at theAustralian box office on Boxing Day, grossing $1.145 million.