The Hollywood Reporter -- Traffic was sluggish at the multiplex on Friday as a crush of new movies -- including Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher and Judd Apatow's This Is 40 -- competed with one another for the attention of moviegoers distracted by holiday preparations.
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey beat both new films to stay at No. 1, grossing $10.2 million for an eight-day domestic cume of $123.3 million.
Jack Reacher, based on Lee Child's popular book series, earned $5.1 million to come in second and is anticipating a $15.4 million weekend. The good news: The movie earned an A- CinemaScore. Paramount and David Ellison's Skydance Productions co-financed the $60 million film.
Apatow's This Is 40, a sort-of sequel to Knocked Up, placed No. 3 Friday with $3.7 million for a projected $13 million weekend. Starring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, the R-rated pic received a B- CinemaScore.
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The weekend before Christmas often is slow at the box office; conversely, movies can go on to enjoy unusually strong multiples because of many people being off of work and out of school through New Year's Day. Paramount insiders are hopeful that the A- CinemaScore for Jack Reacher means the film ultimately will earn five to seven times its opening gross.
However, overall revenue for this weekend is expected to be down by as much as 19 percent from last year, when Cruise's Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows topped the chart.
The 2012 Christmas box office officially got underway last weekend with the debut of New Line and MGM's Hobbit. On Wednesday, the Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen comedy Guilt Trip and the 3D rerelease of Pixar's Monsters, Inc. both opened.
Guilt Trip, likewise from Paramount, grossed roughly $1.5 million on Friday for a three-day cume of $3.5 million. Costing $40 million to produce and co-financed by Skydance, the movie is expected to gross $5 million for the weekend and $7 million for the five days. Even with a strong multiple, Guilt Trip is a disappointment.
Monsters, Inc. grossed $1.4 million on Friday for a three-day cume of $2.9 million. The rerelease was beaten by fellow family film Rise of the Guardians, which grossed $1.6 million on Friday to place No. 4 for a domestic cume just north of $75 million.
Opening in previews Friday was Andrew Adamson's Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away. The 3D film, distributed by Paramount, grossed roughly $800,000 from two showing in 800 theaters. It expands nationwide on Christmas Day.
At the specialty box office, Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty remained strong after opening in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday (Sony expands the film nationwide on Jan. 11). The drama recounts the CIA's decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden and the Navy SEALs raid that culminated with his death.
Zero Dark Thirty, which is rankling lawmakers and government officials because of its scenes of torture, grossed $115,000 on Friday for a screen average of $23,095 and a three-day total of $344,000.
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