box office christmasBelieve it or not, there was a lot more than just "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" going on at the multiplex this holiday weekend. With four new wide releases competing against each other, one art-house release expanding wide, and "Star Wars" still taking up most of the oxygen in the auditorium, the new movies should all have struggled. Instead, all of them did better than expected.

As a result, this weekend was nearly as huge as last weekend, the frame that saw "Star Wars" buoy the box office and break all those records. And it may even have been big enough to help propel 2015 into the record books.

Sure, "The Force Awakens" probably pulled a lot of people into the multiplex, even if they ended up seeing other movies. The seventh "Star Wars" installment continues to set records, with the biggest Christmas Day take ever ($49 million), the biggest second weekend ever (an estimated $153.5 million), and the fastest pace ever to a $500 million domestic gross (10 days).

But it also helped that Christmas Day fell on a Friday, which is why six major new films opened on December 25, each expecting to take full advantage of a complete holiday weekend.

On paper, no one was expecting much from any of them. Either everyone would just go see "The Force Awakens," or the new movies would simply cannibalize each other.

And yet, "Daddy's Home," the new Will Ferrell comedy, earned an estimated $38.8 million, nearly twice what pundits predicted. David O. Russell's awards-hopeful "Joy," starring Jennifer Lawrence, opened in third place with an estimated $17.5 million, also on the high end of expectations. It helped that both movies played better with audiences than they did with critics (both earned a B+ from viewers at CinemaScore, despite weak-to-mixed reviews). But it also helped that there's nothing else in the marketplace like either Ferrell's live-action family comedy or Lawrence's biographical comedy-drama.

Similarly, there's no other film like Will Smith's serious-minded football drama "Concussion," which opened slightly above expectations with an estimated $11.0 million, good for sixth place. And there's also nothing like "Point Break," the 3D action remake that opened at No. 8 with an estimated $10.2 million. Considering the movie's terrible reviews, its weak marketing (it's from Warner Bros., the studio that, "Creed" aside, has been releasing nothing but duds for months), and its utter superfluousness (did we really need or ask for a remake of the 1991 Keanu Reeves surfing-bank-robbers thriller?), those "Point Break" sales were also much better than expected.

Between "Concussion" and "Point Break" was "The Big Short," another Oscar hopeful that expanded this weekend from eight art-house theaters to 1,585 screens and earned a strong estimated $10.5 million as a result. That's very good for a satirical movie about the 2008 financial crash starring several A-list actors in horrible wigs.

Even the holdovers did well. In fourth place, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's R-rated comedy "Sisters" earned another estimated $13.9 million, losing less than half a percentage point in sales from last weekend. Fifth-place finisher "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip" earned an estimated $12.7 million, down a slight 11 percent from a week ago.

According to Sunday estimates, Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" missed out on a top 10 debut by less than $70,000. Few predicted big numbers for a three-hour western opening in just 100 theaters, but "Eight" beat the predictions and scored an estimated $4.5 million.

And Leonardo DiCaprio's western, "The Revenant," opened in just four theaters, but it earned an estimated $117,750 at each of them. That's a phenomenal per-screen average, the third best of any movie this year. (Only "Steve Jobs" and "American Sniper" enjoyed higher per-venue averages.)

Like the other new movies this week, these were both offerings that likely succeeded because of their uniqueness. "Eight" may have received some of the weakest reviews of Tarantino's career, but the chance to see the much-hyped spectacle in a 70MM wide-screen roadshow print made the film's debut an event. And "Revenant," in which DiCaprio's frontiersman is notoriously mauled by a bear, has been touted as the film that may finally win the actor his first Oscar.

It's often said that it takes a very special event-movie to lure audiences out of their living rooms and into a movie theater. "The Force Awakens" has certainly been that kind of event, but so, apparently, were many of the other movies playing this weekend.

Thanks largely to the huge numbers posted this weekend and last, 2015 is on track to beat 2013 for the most lucrative year on record; it'll take only $30 million worth of tickets sold in the next four days to grab the crown. It would also take just $107 million over the next four days for 2015 to become the first year to see the North American box office crack $11 billion. For a year that saw brief but alarming slumps in the spring, summer, and fall, that's not too shabby.