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.
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’s 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 it cumulative domestic gross rose to $149.9 million.
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 Damage (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.
Trip, a PG-13 comedy directed by Anne Fletcher, has a tougher road ahead of it. The movie did open 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.