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"The Hobbit" dwarfs Tom Cruise at the box office

"The dwarfs and elves of "The Hobbit" overpowered Tom Cruise to take the box office title for a second time, grabbing 37.6 million dollars (USD) in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales as a crowd of new films fought for pre-holiday audiences. "The Hobbit" is the first of three movies based on the classic J.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. Cruise's crime drama "Jack Reacher," a film about a fatal sniper attack, landed in second place with 15.6 million. 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. Before the weekend, the studio had predicted sales of 12 million to 15 million. In third place, adult comedy "This is 40" pulled in 12 million, according to studio estimates compiled by Reuters on Sunday. The film stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as a middle-aged couple. The studio billed the 35 million production as a "sort-of sequel" to 2007 comedy "Knocked Up." Comedy "The Guilt Trip," starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as a mother and son on a cross-country drive, pulled in $5.4 million over three days. The movie opened two days before the weekend, on Wednesday, scoring a five-day total of $7.4 million. In five theaters in New York and Los Angeles, thriller "Zero Dark Thirty" about the hunt for Osama bin Laden grossed 410,000 dollars in what box office analyst for said is a huge limited release start for the film. The movie, considered an Oscar contender, will expand nationwide on January 11.

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