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'Hobbit' to rule box office again

  • Article by: AMY KAUFMAN
  • Los Angeles Times
  • December 21, 2012 - 3:25 PM

On Wednesday, three Senate leaders condemned Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" for its "grossly inaccurate" portrayal of the events leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

But the controversy only seemed to make the well-reviewed picture even more appealing to moviegoers, who showed up in droves at theaters in New York and Los Angeles on the same day that Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain publicly bashed the movie.

Sony Pictures opened the CIA drama in five theaters Wednesday, collecting $124,828, according to the studio's estimate. That's the biggest Wednesday launch ever for a film playing in limited release - excluding the times that Walt Disney Studios has played its animated movies along with a stage show with a higher ticket price.

"Zero Dark Thirty" was financed primarily by producer Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures for about $45 million. Sony opted to open the movie in limited release about three weeks before its wide debut in an effort to build buzz.

The film, considered a front-runner for a best picture Oscar, will expand nationwide Jan. 11, a day after Oscar nominations are announced and two days before the Golden Globe Awards ceremony. Pre-release tracking surveys show that interest across the country is already strong, particularly among men.

Meanwhile, two movies that debuted nationwide Wednesday - "The Guilt Trip" and a 3-D version of 2001's "Monsters, Inc." - got off to weak domestic starts. Paramount Pictures' Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen road trip comedy collected $1 million during its first day in theaters, while Disney's animated kids' flick grossed only $778,913. Each will be lucky to collect more than $12 million by Sunday.

Heading into the weekend, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is expected to claim the No. 1 position again after debuting with $84.6 million last weekend. To date, the film has grossed $295 million worldwide.

Of the newcomers, Tom Cruise's sniper flick "Jack Reacher" probably will fare best but will collect a so-so sum of about $15 million. It could become Cruise's second disappointment of the year after his musical flop "Rock of Ages" last summer. Co-financed by Paramount and Skydance Productions for about $60 million, his new film is based on Lee Child's best-selling "Jack Reacher" series about an ex-soldier looking to hunt down the perpetrator of a shooting rampage.

Judd Apatow also has something to prove with his latest directorial effort, "This is 40," about a middle-aged married couple, which is projected to open with $12 million. His last movie, "Funny People" - also a comedy with serious undertones - underperformed, collecting just $51.8 million. If "This is 40," which stars Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann, and Paul Rudd, doesn't beat industry projections, the filmmaker will have the worst opening of his career. His directorial debut, 2005's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," currently holds that record with its $21.4 million launch, though it went on to gross more than $100 million.

"So nervous about the release of the movie. Sleep? Ha!" Apatow wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday evening.

It doesn't seem that Disney's 3-D re-release of "Monsters, Inc." will make nearly as much money as the 3-D version of "The Lion King" did last year. After the studio added 3-D technology to the jungle tale, the movie ended up raking in $94.2 million. But none of Disney's subsequent 3-D re-releases - "Beauty and the Beast" and "Finding Nemo" - fared nearly that well.

"The Guilt Trip" marks Streisand's first starring role since she appeared in 1996's "The Mirror Has Two Faces." The 70-year-old's new movie - about a mother and son who embark on a cross-country trip - has earned dismal reviews. Most of those who do show up to see the film, which cost $40 million to produce, are expected to be women.

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