Peter Jackson's The Hobbit sequel has struck gold at the North American box office after conjuring up an impressive opening weekend take of $73.7 million (£49.1 million).

The early success of fantasy epic The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has made it the fourth biggest December opening ever, behind last year's (12) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I Am Legend and Avatar.

Disney's animated winter tale Frozen fell to second place with $22.2 million (£14.8 million) and Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas earned $16.16 million (£10.77 million) in its debut weekend.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Thor: The Dark World rounded out the rest of the top five in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Meanwhile, American Hustle enjoyed the year's (13) biggest limited box office debut with $690,000 (£460,000) from just six theatres across Los Angeles and New York.