Neither Tom Cruise nor Barbra Streisand could burst the holiday box-office bubble of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," which rolled to its second consecutive weekend win with $36 million.
Peter Jackson's Middle-earth epic, the first of three planned installments and a prequel to the blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, has now taken in nearly $150 million since opening in the U.S. on Dec. 14. With another $91 million from overseas this weekend, it has made more than $433 millon worldwide for Warner Bros.
Cruise's "Jack Reacher" opened at No. 2 with a decent $15.6 million, but it was clear early that Paramount's action film wasn't going to slow down Bilbo Baggins or match the success of last holiday season's "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol." That film made nearly $30 million in its wide debut, and went on to make nearly $700 million worldwide for Paramount.
The "Jack Reacher" audience was older (76 percent over 25) and 60 percent male. They gave the film, based on bestselling author Lee Child's novel "One Shot" and written for the screen and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, an "A-" CinemaScore.
Cruise's personal problems may have limited its appeal.
"I can't imagine his divorce from Katie Holmes and the custody battle hasn't hurt him some with women," BoxOffice.com vice president and chief analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap prior to its release. "Actions fans will come out, but going beyond that demographic is going to be tough for him."
Though it's behind their opening pace, "Jack Reacher" could wind up playing more like Cruise's "Knight and Day," which opened to $20 million and went on to make $76 million for Fox in 2010, or "Valkyrie," which did $83 million in 2008 after opening to $21 million.
Streisand's PG-rated road comedy "Guilt Trip,' in which she stars with Seth Rogen, has struggled since opening Wednesday. It took in just $5.2 million over the weekend and has a $7.4 million total.
It couldn't keep pace with another comedy, "This is 40," from writer-director Judd Apatow. The R-rated sort-of sequel to Apatow's "Knocked Up," opened to $12 million and was No. 3 for Universal. Moviegoers, who broke down 57 percent female, gave it a "B-" CinemaScore.
"Guilt Trip" is Streisand's first film foray since "Little Fockers," which debuted around the same time of year in 2010 for Universal -- and her first starring role since 1996's "The Mirror Has Two Faces."
The "Guilt Trip" debut is disappointing. "Little Fockers," a sequel to "Meet the Fockers," opened to $30 million and went on to make $148 million. Distributor Paramount was hoping the PG13-rated "Guilt Trip," which was on about 2,300 screens, would do between $8 million and $10 million over the five days and then play steadily through the holidays.
It won't be helped by the opening on Christmas Day of another mature skewing comedy, Fox's "Parental Guidance," which stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler.
Paramount's head of distribution Don Harris told TheWrap that he was happy with the "Jack Reacher" debut and still hopeful on "Guilt Trip."
"The over-riding reality is that it's pre-Christmas," Harris said. "What you're trying to do is establish your movie and then see how it plays over the holiday. We're happy with that number for "Jack Reacher" and the CinemaScore (an "A-") is encouraging, too."
He said he thought "Guilt Trip," which played an older (82 percent over 25) and 60 percent female audience that could still find its place in the crowded holiday market. "It will have to hang in, but once we get to Christmas we'll know more, and we think it will play through January.
"Rise of the Guardians," the final DreamWorks Animation movie that Paramount is distributing, is showing some staying power after a slow start. It finished fourth for the weekend in its fifth week, dropping just 15 percent from last week with $6 million. Its overall domestic gross is $80 million.
Also holding strongly was DreamWorks and Disney's Oscar front-runner "Lincoln," which was off just 18 percent from last week and finished fifth with $5.7 million. Its overall U.S. total is now $116 million after seven weeks.
Disney's 3D re-release of its 2001 animated hit "Monsters Inc." finished sixth with a $6.5 million opening. That's below two other 3D releases from Disney this year. "Beauty and the Beast" debuted to $17 million in July and went on to make $47 million. In September, a converted "Finding Nemo" took in $16 million in its first week and wound up at $41 million.