Tiny hobbit Bilbo Baggins is running circles around some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" took in $36.7 million to remain No. 1 at the box office for the second-straight weekend, easily beating a rush of top-name holiday newcomers.
Part one of Jackson's prelude to the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the Warner Bros. release raised its domestic total to $149.9 million after 10 days. The film added $91 million overseas to bring its international total to $284 million and its worldwide haul to $434 million.
"The Hobbit" took a steep 57 percent drop from its domestic $84.6 million opening weekend, but business was soft in general as many people skipped movies in favor of last-minute Christmas preparations.
"The real winner this weekend might be holiday shopping," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
Tom Cruise's action thriller "Jack Reacher" debuted in second-place with a modest $15.6 million debut, according to studio estimates Sunday. Based on the Lee Child best-seller "One Shot," the Paramount Pictures release stars Cruise as a lone-wolf ex-military investigator tracking a sniper conspiracy.
Opening at No. 3 with $12 million was Judd Apatow's marital comedy "This Is 40," a Universal Pictures film featuring Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprising their roles from the director's 2007 hit "Knocked Up."
Paramount's road-trip romp "The Guilt Trip," featuring "Knocked Up" star Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand, debuted weakly at No. 6 with $5.4 million over the weekend and $7.4 million since it opened Wednesday. Playing in narrower release, Paramount's acrobatic fantasy "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" debuted at No. 11 with $2.1 million.
A 3-D version of Disney's 2001 animated blockbuster "Monsters, Inc." also had a modest start at No. 7 with $5 million over the weekend and $6.5 million since opening Wednesday.
Domestic business was off for the first time in nearly two months. Overall revenues totaled $112 million, down 12.6 percent from the same weekend last year, when Cruise's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" debuted with $29.6 million, according to Hollywood.com.
Cruise's "Jack Reacher" opened at barely half the level as "Ghost Protocol," but with a $60 million budget, the new flick cost about $100 million less to make.
Starting on Christmas, Hollywood expects a big week of movie-going with schools out through New Year's Day and many adults taking time off.
In limited release, Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden manhunt saga "Zero Dark Thirty" played to packed houses with $410,000 in just five theaters, averaging a huge $82,000 a cinema. The film has already garnered lots of Oscar nomination buzz.
Since opening Wednesday, "Zero Dark Thirty" has taken in $639,000. Distributor Sony plans to expand the acclaimed film to nationwide release Jan. 11, amid film honors and nominations leading up to the Feb. 24 Academy Awards.
Opening in 15 theaters from Lionsgate banner Summit Entertainment, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor's tsunami-survival drama "The Impossible" took in $138,750 for an average of $9,250.
A fourth new release from Paramount, "The Sopranos" creator David Chase's 1960s rock 'n' roll tale "Not Fade Away," debuted with $19,000 in three theaters, averaging $6,333.
Universal's "Les Miserables" got a head-start on its domestic release with a $4.2 million debut in Japan.