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Humble Hobbit towers over the competition

IF YOU saw a movie in the suburbs on Boxing Day, chances are it was The Hobbit. If you went to an inner-city cinema, you probably watched Les Miserables. And no matter where you were, odds are you did not catch the Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher.

Reacher drew a modest $US15.6 million ($15 million) in its first weekend in the United States: just over half the initial takings of Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which opened around the same time last year. According to Entertainment Weekly, fans of the Lee Child character may be ''put off'' by the diminutive Cruise because Reacher ''is supposed to be physically imposing at 6'5''.

Even if the film does well, it won't rival Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings prequel for Boxing Day supremacy.

Most multiplexes reported ticket sales for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, pictured, were well ahead of every other contender. Dendy Cinemas in Canberra reported that all of Wednesday's screenings were sold out except for the front row.

Indeed, Jackson appears to be competing with himself: he already holds the top three spots for Boxing Day earnings with his Rings trilogy, released between 2001 and 2003.

But the expected runner-up, an adaptation of novel-turned-stage musical Les Miserables, could prove a winner in the inner suburbs.


The rest of Boxing Day's new releases are all comedies, albeit very different ones: animated Disney flick Wreck-It Ralph, the live action crowd-pleaser Parental Guidance and the darkly humorous arthouse Sightseers.

Other likely summer hits include novel adaptation Life of Pi, to be released on New Year's Day, action thriller Zero Dark Thirty on January 31 and presidential biopic Lincoln on February 7. Since opening in the US on November 9, the acclaimed Steven Spielberg film has grossed almost $US117 million.

Palace Cinemas executive director, Benjamin Zeccola, said Boxing Day's earnings were up 10 per cent on last year.

''It really is all about Les Miserables and The Hobbit,'' he said. ''Quartet is doing exceptionally well, too. And across all our cinemas, we're selling just as many caffe lattes as we are movie tickets.''

Marc Wooldridge, a board member of the Motion Pictures Distributors Association of Australia, said Jackson's fourth Boxing Day blockbuster would ensure a windfall.

''The initial results in other markets and the previous success of the Rings movies in Australia strongly suggest The Hobbit will outperform last year's No. 1 movie, The Adventures of Tintin,'' he said.