"Hobbit" fever beats Tom Cruise at box office

Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:37pm EST
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(Reuters) - The dwarfs and elves of "The Hobbit" overpowered Tom Cruise to take the box office title for a second time, grabbing $37.6 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales as a crowd of new films fought for pre-holiday audiences.

Cruise's crime drama "Jack Reacher," a film about a fatal sniper attack, landed in second place with $15.6 million. In third place, adult comedy "This is 40" pulled in $12 million, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday.

Domestic ticket sales for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" fell by about 57 percent during the film's second weekend. Movie receipts typically drop 40 percent to 60 percent each week.

In international markets, "Hobbit" sales reached $284 million and brought the movie's global take to $434 million, distributor Warner Bros. said.

"The Hobbit" is the first of three movies based on the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novel set in the fantasy world of Middle Earth. The films, produced by MGM and Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema, are prequels to the blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" franchise that brought in box office gold a decade ago.

Producers of "The Hobbit" and other films hope to enjoy a big boost this week around the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The current crop will face competition starting on Tuesday, Christmas Day, from Quentin Tarantino's Western "Django Unchained," musical "Les Miserables" and comedy "Parental Guidance."

Sales over the coming days are expected to push 2012 to a domestic box office record. The year is on track to finish with $10.8 billion worth of ticket sales in the North American (U.S. and Canadian) market, according to a projection from box office tracker Hollywood.com. The current record is $10.6 billion, set in 2009.


Over the weekend, "Jack Reacher" debuted just days after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting sparked new debate about the impact of movie violence. "Reacher" begins with a sniper killing a handful of seemingly random victims. A red-carpet premiere and a screening to promote the $60-million production were postponed after the Newtown tragedy.   Continued...

New Zealand director Peter Jackson (C) and cast members Richard Armitage (L), Martin Freeman (2nd L), Elijah Wood (2nd R) and Andy Serkis attend the Japan premiere of their movie 'The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey' in Tokyo December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Issei Kato