The early reviews of The Hobbit confirmed what many had suspected—that Peter Jackson’s decision to stretch out Tolkien’s relatively slim, 310-page novel over three, three-hour-long movies was a blatant, shameless cash grab.

Nothing in Tolkien’s novel warranted the nine-hour-long treatment, but since three movies equals three times the profits, the nine-hour-long treatment is what we’re stuck with. For moviegoers who enjoyed Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy but aren’t die hard Tolkien fanatics, this means suffering through ten-minute-long scenes in which dwarves sing songs while doing dishes.

Amazingly, the strategy seems to have worked. The Hobbit grossed $84.8 million over the weekend, a new December record.

Whereas critics complained that the movie was long, tedious, and stuffed with pointless scenes that go nowhere, audiences seem to have enjoyed it just fine. The movie received a rare “A” CinemaScore from audiences. (In contrast,  the movie earned a 65% fresh rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, a 30% decline from what Jackson’s previous Tolkien adaptations received on the site).

Here are the weekend’s top 10 movies:

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  $84.8M
2. Rise of the Guardians  $7.42M  (total: $71.4M)
3. Lincoln  $7.24M  (total: $108M)
4. Skyfall  $7M  (total: $272M)
5. Life of Pi  $5.4M  (total: $69.6M)
6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2  $5.17M  (total: $277M)
7. Wreck-It Ralph  $3.27M  (total: $169M)
8. Playing for Keeps  $3.25M  (total: $10.8M)
9. Red Dawn  $2.39M  (total: $40.9M)
10. Silver Linings Playbook  $2.08M  (total: $17M)