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10 Biggest Christmas Blockbusters of All Time

Tickers in this article: CKEC CNK DIS RGC
PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- During a holiday season of Thanksgiving night store openings and Christmas retail and restaurant encroachment, movie theaters continue to get a pass from the merry masses.

Many of the same folks who hated seeing Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) extend Black Friday to just after Thanksgiving dinner and cursed McDonald's (MCD) for telling franchisees to consider opening on Christmas Day have no problem with Regal Entertainment Group (RGC) , AMC Theaters , Carmike Cinemas (CKEC) or Cinemark Theaters (CNK) calling in employees, throwing open the doors and debuting movies. This year's lineup is particularly robust, with Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained , the Seth Rogen/Barbara Streisand comedy Guilt Trip , Judd Apatow's This Is 40 and the musical Les Miserables all being released on or just before Christmas.

Since the turn of the millennium, the cinematic holiday season has transformed from a quiet little collection of family films and Oscar contenders to blockbuster territory. According to BoxOfficeMojo, the movie industry's holiday season -- which starts on first Friday in November and ends on New Year's week or weekend -- first passed the $2 billion mark in 2000. That season, the Jim Carrey live-action version of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas pulled in $260 million on its own.

Disney's (DIS) Toy Story franchise and James Cameron's Titanic helped nudge the industry in this direction during the '90s, but The Grinch increased Hollywood's holiday output from 63 films in 2000 to 107 by 2007. The number of films released has since plummeted and the annual holiday take has decreased in five of the past seven years, including a 39% downturn so far this season.

Can this year's Christmas crop help the industry recover? With help from BoxOfficeMojo, we looked back and found 10 examples of films that not only cleaned up on Christmas Day, but helped boost the overall box office take by prying Christmas-minded folks away from their pumpkin pie and piles of presents:

10. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Year released: 2002
Christmas Day take: $12.4 million

With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey already surpassing the $100 million mark in the U.S. during its first week of release, it's worth remembering just how Peter Jackson's first take on J.R.R. Tolkien books was a decade ago.

The first installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- Fellowship of the Ring -- made $11.6 million on Christmas just a year earlier. By the time the The Two Towers , its giant fighting trees and climactic Battle at Helm's Deep arrived in 2002, the trilogy had America's attention. It would make $250 million in the U.S. during its first five days of release and nearly $340 million for the holiday season. It wouldn't be the last America saw of Jackson or Middle Earth on Christmas, as both had one more Lord of the Rings tale to tell.