Box Office: ‘Jack Reacher’ claims victory with no. 2 finish after ‘The Hobbit’

Over Tom Cruise’s long career he’s earned a reputation of a summer blockbuster leading man, but most studio execs will tell you the truth is a December release date is his most reliable opening frame. “Rain Man,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “A Few Good Men,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Vanilla Sky,” “The Last Samurai,” “Valkyrie” and last year’s “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” are all Cruise hits that either opened right before or during the lucrative holiday season. In fact, Cruise’s only box office disappointment among December releases is Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” which opened in limited release and expanded (badly) in January.  Pre-release tracking caused quite a worry among Paramount Pictures executives that Cruise’s latest thriller, “Jack Reacher,” would not live up to his December standards.  Oh, ye of little faith.

“Reacher” grossed $5.1 million on Friday for second place at the box office and could end up with $15-17 million over the three-day weekend. By Christmas, “Reacher” could be at $25 million.  That would be a great domestic start for a movie that cost only $60 million. Right now, it appears as though it could perform similarly to the $88 million grossing “Valkyrie.”

Still far and away the no. 1 film in theaters is Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” The adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel found another $10.1 million for an impressive $123.3 million in just 8 days. It’s only competition over the holiday frame should be “Les Miserables” and “Django Unchained.”

Third place went to Judd Apatow’s “This is Forty” with $3.7 million.  The R-rated comedy could gross $13-14.5 million over the three-day holiday. Considering the extended frame, there is no reason to think “Forty” can’t recover from this weaker than hoped for start. It’s definitely one to watch as the Christmas-New Year’s moviegoing begins.

Filling the void for young families in fourth is DreamWorks Animation’s “Rise of the Guardians” with another $1.5 million. After a slow start the holiday superhero team fantasy has pulled in $75.3 million. It may eke its way to $100 million sometime next month.

Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand’s “The Guilt Trip” took the fifth slot with $1.4 million.  Since opening on Wednesday, the road trip comedy has found only $3.5 million. Paramount might have been better off holding this family bonding flick to Mother’s Day weekend.

Look for complete box office estimates for the weekend Sunday on HitFix.