AFP - Hordes of North American moviegoers flocked to theaters to watch "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," launching the "Lord of the Rings" prequel to box office gold for the second weekend in a row.
Industry estimates said "The Hobbit" earned $36.7 million Friday to Sunday.
In its opening weekend, the film scored $84.6 million in the US and Canada, and $138.2 million internationally, for an estimated global total of $223 million, according to New Line Cinema, which said it was the biggest opening for any "Lord of the Rings" film.
Box office watchers said it was the biggest December opening in motion picture history.
The epic stars Martin Freeman of British TV’s "Sherlock" fame and Ian McKellen, reprising his role as Gandalf the Grey. It was directed by Peter Jackson based on the classic fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Well behind in second place was newcomer "Jack Reacher," a crime drama featuring Tom Cruise investigating fictional shootings by a trained military sniper.
The film opened with a $15.6 million take at the box office, according to industry tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Judd Apataw’s comedy "This is 40," billed as "a sort-of sequel" to the 2007 film "Knocked Up," debuted in third position, taking in $12 million.
That pushed "Rise of the Guardians," a Dreamworks holiday confection featuring Jack Frost, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and a tattooed Russian Santa Claus, into fourth place with $5.9 million.
"Lincoln" -- starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th US president -- picked up $5.6 million, good for fifth place. The film got a bump after earning seven Golden Globe nominations earlier this month, the most of any film this year.
Two more newcomers took sixth and seventh place.
"The Guilt Trip," about a mother-son road trip starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogan, earned $5.4 million; and the 3D version of the 2001 animated hit "Monsters, Inc," which took in $5 million.
"Skyfall," the 23rd episode of the James Bond spy thriller series, dropped to eighth place, with $4.7 million.
The ninth place spot was claimed by "Life of Pi," a 3D fantasy by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee based on a Booker Prize-winning novel about an Indian boy adrift on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger in the Pacific. It earned $3.8 million.
And rounding out the top 10 with $2.6 million was "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn," the last installment in the wildly popular vampire series.
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