‘Hobbit’ No. 1 Movie Again With $37 Million in Ticket Sales

‘Hobbit’ Director Jackson Says Faster Film Speed Boosts Realism
Ian McKellen reprises his "Lord of the Rings" role as Gandalf the Grey in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Photographer: Mark Pokorny/Warner Bros. Pictures via Bloomberg

“The Hobbit,” the first of director Peter Jackson’s three movies based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel, was the top-grossing film at U.S. and Canadian theaters for a second weekend with $36.7 million in sales.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” outdrew five new films opening in wide release, including the Tom Cruise thriller “Jack Reacher” and director Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40,” researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement.

Hollywood studios are expected to take in a record $10.8 billion for the year, the estimate of Hollywood.com, propelled by films including “The Hobbit,” from Time Warner Inc.’s New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and summer hits such as Walt Disney Co.’s “Marvel’s The Avengers.”

“The hold at number one for ’The Hobbit’ is pretty good because it has a large built-in audience that came out upfront on opening day,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of industry website Boxofficeguru.com, said in a phone interview.

The weekend also saw limited releases of award contenders including “Zero Dark Thirty,” director Kathryn Bigelow’s account of the hunt for and killing of Osama Bin Laden. The film, featuring Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt, has taken in $639,000 since opening in five theaters on Dec. 19. The movie, from Sony Corp., is scheduled for wide release on Jan. 11.

“It’s one of the hottest tickets in town,” Pandya said. “Their strategy is to release it nationwide the day after Oscar nominations are announced to capitalize on the Oscar heat.”

Bilbo Returns

“The Impossible,” Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s tale about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, opened in 14 theaters with total ticket sales of about $139,000. Naomi Watts was nominated for a Golden Globe award for best actress for her role in the drama. Ewan McGregor also stars.

In “The Hobbit,” Bilbo Baggins is recruited by the wizard Gandalf to join an expedition of dwarves seeking to reclaim their homeland and a treasure lost to the dragon Smaug. The book was published in 1937, almost two decades before the first of Tolkien’s “Rings” novels.

The 3-D film is the first to be projected at 48 frames a second, double the usual speed. Jackson has said that the technology improves the quality of 3-D images, particularly in scenes with fast action. The movie is the first of three planned on Tolkien’s book.

“The Hobbit” stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf from the Rings trilogy. Andy Serkis again plays Gollum, the slimy, half-naked creature from the Rings trilogy.

Cruise Control

“The Hobbit” has taken in $149.9 million since it was released on Dec. 14. The second movie in the new series, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” is scheduled for release next year, according to the Internet Movie Database.

“Jack Reacher” collected $15.6 million in its debut for Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures to place second. Based on the character from novelist Lee Child, the film features Cruise as a former military police officer who conducts his own ruthless investigation into a mass shooting. In the process, he runs afoul of a villain played by German director Werner Herzog.

“This Is 40” opened with sales of $12 million for Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures to place third. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann pick up the story of Pete and Debbie, characters they played in Apatow’s 2007 film “Knocked Up.” Albert Brooks and Megan Fox co-star in the film.

3-D Versions

The comedy “The Guilt Trip” opened in sixth place with revenue of $5.4 million for Paramount. The film features Barbra Streisand as an overbearing mother who accompanies her son, played by Seth Rogen, on a 3,000-mile road trip. Yvonne Strahovski and Colin Hanks co-star.

Among returning films, “Rise of the Guardians” had sales of $5.9 million, placing fourth for the weekend. The film from DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. pits storybook figures such as Santa Claus, Jack Frost and the Sandman against an evil force threatening children.

“Lincoln,” Steven Spielberg’s examination of the 16th U.S. president’s political campaign to end slavery, was fifth with receipts of $5.6 million, bringing its domestic total to $116.8 million. It was produced by the director’s DreamWorks Studios and is being distributed by Disney.

Walt Disney’s release of a 3-D version of Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” registered sales of about $5 million to finish seventh. The film took in $526 million worldwide in its original 2-D format in 2001, according to Box Office Mojo, another film researcher. The movie features the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Bonnie Hunt. The sequel “Monsters University” is scheduled for June 2013.

Weekend Revenue Slips

Another new 3-D wide release was “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away,” a picture from Paramount that collected $2.1 million to place 11th. The film follows two young people who are separated and must find one another after entering a dreamlike world.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 11 percent to $101.5 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Dec. 21-22 and estimates for today.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
1 THE HOBBIT           $36.7   4,100   $8,952   -57  $149.9   2
2 JACK REACHER          15.6   3,352    4,654   --     15.6   1
3 THIS IS 40            12.0   2,913    4,130   --     12.0   1
4 RISE OF THE GUARDIANS  5.9   3,031    1,947   -17    79.7   5
5 LINCOLN                5.6   2,293    2,457   -20   116.8   7
6 THE GUILT TRIP         5.4   2,431    2,217   --      7.4   1
7 MONSTERS, INC.         5.0   2,618    1,925   --      6.5   1
8 SKYFALL                4.7   2,365    1,987   -28   280.0   7
9 LIFE OF PI             3.8   1,750    2,171   -30    76.2   5
10 THE TWILIGHT SAGA     2.6   2,000    1,300   -49   281.6   6
11 CIRQUE DU SOLEIL      2.1     840    2,542   --      2.3   1
12 WRECK-IT RALPH        2.0   1,444    1,387   -38   171.9   8

Top 12 Films Grosses:

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
    $101.5        $114.4        -11

Year-to-date Revenue:

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
   $10,372.2      $9,832.3      +5

Year-to-date Attendance:        +5%
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