'Hobbit' fever beats Tom Cruise at box office

Dec 23 (Reuters) - The big-budget "Hobbit" fantasy movie

ruled movie box office charts for a second straight weekend,

fending off Hollywood heavyweight Tom Cruise in new crime drama

"Jack Reacher."

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hauled in nearly $37

million from theaters in the United States and Canada, according

to studio estimates of Friday-through-Sunday ticket sales. The

film is the first of three movies based on the classic J.R.R.

Tolkien novel about a world of dwarfs, elves and dragons in the

fictitious Middle Earth.

In second place, Cruise's "Jack Reacher" about the

investigation into a sniper shooting brought in just short of

$17 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters. Distributor Paramout

Pictures postponed a premiere of the film after the fatal school

shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, sparked new scrutiny of

violent movies.

Adult comedy "This is 40," starring Paul Rudd and Leslie

Mann as a middle-aged couple, brought in $12 million, finishing

in third place.

"The Hobbit" was distributed by Time Warner Inc's

Warner Bros. studio. Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc

, released "Jack Reacher." Comcast Corp's Universal

Pictures distributed "This is 40."

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