Holdover Tolkien pic bests holiday competish; Controversial 'Zero Dark' earns $23K per screen

Despite a bustling B.O. lineup leading up to the holiday, holdover “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” maintained its top spot with $10.2 million domestically on Friday, while “Zero Dark Thirty” may be enjoying a news controversy boost in limited release.

The Warner Bros. epic, which has cumed $123.3 million so far, pushed newcomers “Jack Reacher” and “This is 40″ to second and third place, respectively.

“Reacher,” one of four films Paramount is releasing in the days prior to Christmas, earned $5.1 million Friday. Pic is looking at a three-day gross around $15 million, which isn’t terrible news for the actioner budgeted at $65 million given the multiples films released at this time of year typically enjoy.

Universal’s latest R-rated Judd Apatow laffer “This is 40″ earned $3.7 million Friday, and is looking at a weekend haul just behind “Reacher” around $13 million.

Possibly the weekend’s most interesting story is being told in smaller release. Sony’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” following some high profile backlash from three U.S. senators who criticized the film’s representation of torture, earned $115,000 from only five locations on Friday for a per screen average of $23,000 and a cume of $344,000 since Wednesday. It won’t be a record breaker, but it will be a tremendous open for the Oscar contender.

Besides “Reacher,” other Par openers “The Guilt Trip” and “Cirque de Soleil: Worlds Away” earned $1.5 million and $802,000, respectively. Smaller opener “Not Fade Away” from Paramount Vantage earned $5,000 from 3 engagements.

Finally, Summit’s domestic release of overseas success “The Impossible” opened on 15 screens with $2,500 per screen, a weak bow considering the remarkable hauls from its release in Spain in October. On a similar note, the 3D rerelease of “Monsters, Inc.” earned $1.4 million Friday, underperforming expectations and matching “Lincoln’s” take in its seventh week in plexes, both from Disney.

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