Box Office Report: 'The Hobbit' Overshadows New Movies From Tom Cruise, Judd Apatow, Barbra Streisand

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Running in Field - H 2012
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Running in Field - H 2012

Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden pic "Zero Dark Thirty" packs houses in its exclusive launch.

While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey held onto the box office ring this weekend, North American moviegoers didn’t exactly rush to open the new films entering under Hollywood’s pre-Christmas tree. Jack Reacher, the Tom Cruise action movie, opened in the second slot to an estimated $15.6 million, while Judd Apatow’s latest comedy, This Is 40, bowed in third place with $12 million. The Guilt Trip, the mother-son comedy starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, lagged behind in the sixth spot with a tepid $5.39 million.

Launching with an exclusive release in just five theaters, Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, racked up big numbers, collecting $410,000 for a per-theater average of $82,000.

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While the final weekend before Christmas is traditionally slow as movies compete with holiday preparations, the box office is expected to pick up on Christmas Day, and for the new films that could mean stronger-than-usual holds which could boost their ultimate domestic grosses.

Hobbit, as it entered its second weekend, easily claimed the top position. The Warner release, which is playing in a combination of 4,100 2D, 3D and Imax locations, grossed $36.7 million, dropping 57 percent from its opening weekend as its cumulative domestic gross rose to $149.9 million. Internationally, the movie took in $91 million, bringing its collective worldwide purse to $433.9 million.

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Reacher, based on Lee Child’s popular book series, appealed to older males as it carved out a position at the box office, earning an A- Cinemascore. The PG-13 rated Paramount release, written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, and produced by the studio and Skydance Productions at a cost of $60 million, opened in 3,352 theaters in line with such other Cruise entries as 2002’s Collateral (which bowed to $15.1 million and went on to gross $40 million domestically) and 2008’s Valkyrie (which opened on a Christmas Day, grossing $21.02 million in first weekend, with an eventual take of $83.1 million). “I think the movie found a sweet spot,” said Megan Colligan, Paramount president of domestic marketing and distribution. “It’s has the action-hero quality that older men love and has a great opportunity to bring in teenage boys as the audience expands.”

By contrast, 40, which stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, was playing to older females. Universal compared the performance of the R-rated domestic comedy, which earned $12 million in 2,913 locations, to such pre-Christmas December bows as 2000’s Family Man and Miss Congeniality, which both opened to $10 million. “I knew if we could get $10 million, and we did better than that, then the box office for the movie would just get better and better after Christmas Day,” Nikki Rocco, Universal distribution president, said.

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Trip, a PG-13 comedy directed by Anne Fletcher, has a tougher road ahead of it. The movie opened on Wednesday, which siphoned some business away from its $5.4 million weekend as it played in 2,431 locations, and its cumulative gross now stands at $7.4 million.

Pixar's 2001 hit Monsters, Inc. returned to theaters this weekend in a new 3D version. The Disney rerelease picked up $5 million and ranked seventh. Its five-day total is $6.5 million.

Paramount also used the weekend to introduce Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away, a 3D feature directed by Andrew Adamson and exec produced by James Cameron that presents performances from various Cirque stage shows. While the PG film bowed in 840 theaters, at each it played just two shows per day at noon and 7 p.m. for what the studio characterized as a paid preview. On Christmas Day, it will begin full screening schedules at the participating theaters. This weekend, it took in an initial $2.1 million and ranked eleventh.

Rounding out the top 10: DreamWorks Animation's Rise of the Guardians, with the benefit of its holiday-themed storyline, hung on in fourth place, attracting an additional $5.9 million to bring its domestic total to $79.7 million; DreamWorks' Lincoln was fifth with $5.6 million and a new tally of $116.8 million; MGM and Sony's Skyfall ranked eighth with $4.7 million, bringing its domestic gross to $280 million as its worldwide tally climbed to $974.1 million; Fox's Life of Pi was ninth with $3.8 million and a domestic haul of $76.2 million; and Summit's Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was tenth with $2.6 million and $281.6 million domestically.

Overall, the weekend's collective box office, at about an estimated $107 million, was soft, with a number of the films competing for adult moviegoers who probably won't show up in bigger numbers until Christmas Day and beyond. 

Among exclusive releases, though, there was lots of activity, with Zero selling out many showings at the five theaters where it is playing in New York and Los Angeles. "It's a fantastic result for an extraordinary movie," said Rory Bruer, Sony president of worldwide distribution. Having opened on Wednesday, Dec. 19, the film has now grossed $639,000. It will expand to limited release in 11 markets on Jan. 4, followed by a wide expansion on Jan. 11.

Sony Pictures Classics also found lots of takers for Michael Haneke's French-language drama Amour, which also bowed Dec. 19. Over the weekend, it grossed $70,662 in three theaters for a per-theater average of $23,554 and a total gross-to-date of $100,213.

The Impossible, Juan Antonio Bayona's feature about a family separated by the 2004 tsunami that stars Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, was launched by Summit in 15 theaters. It took in $138,750 for a per-theater average of $9,250.

Paramount Vantage raised the curtain on David Chase's Not Fade Away, a look back at a '60s garage band, in three theaters, where it collected $19,000 for a per-theater average of $6,333.