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Hollywood's having another solid December

An image from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies."
Source: The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
An image from "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies."

It hasn't been a great month for Sony Pictures, but December is turning out to be another solid month for Hollywood.

December is the biggest month of the year for the film industry, and Dec. 25 is typically one of the largest days of the month. While Sony canceled the Dec. 25 release of its North Korea satire "The Interview" after threats of violence against theaters screening the film, the news hasn't kept moviegoers away from the mall.

To be sure, this hasn't been the movie industry's greatest year, with the final box-office tally for 2014 expected to come in a few percentage points lower than last year, thanks to production delays for a handful of potential blockbusters and increased competition from video on demand and other forms of digital entertainment. But concerns that Sony hacker threats might prompt jittery movie fans to stay home from theaters haven't been borne out.

Overall, last weekend's box office topped $135 million, according to Rentrak, down a bit from last year, but well above the 10-year average for the second to the last weekend of the year. In 2007, Hollywood pulled in total U.S. gross revenue of $161 million over the weekend before Christmas. A year later, in the depths of the Great Recession, the total box office for that weekend fell to $89 million.

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As in past holiday seasons, Hobbits are turning in a reliable performance at the box office for Warner Bros. "Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies," the third and final installment of the franchise, led last weekend with $56 million in ticket sales—pushing the overall take since its Wednesday opening to $91 million.

It's not the first time December has been a good month for Hobbits. In 2012, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" pulled in $229 million in December alone for Warner Bros., which was better than last year's December receipts for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which took in $202 million for the month.

Other big December movies in the last 10 years include "Avatar" (2009, with a December gross of $284 million); "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (2003, $249 million) and "Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (2005, $209 million).

While Christmas Day usually logs the biggest overall U.S. gross for the movie business, it also tends to attract the most new releases.

This year, contenders include "Unbroken," a Universal release about an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II; "Into the Woods," a Disney production based on several classic Grimm's fairy tales; "American Sniper," a Warner Bros. production of a Clint Eastwood film about a Navy SEAL who served in Iraq; and "Big Eyes," a Weinstein Company biopic about Margaret Keane, the 1950s artist whose husband claimed credit for her popular prints of big-eyed kids.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.