Weekend Box Office (December 30, 2011 - January 2, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Tom Cruise rang in 2012 by being the top draw around the world once again as his latest action sequel Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol topped the box office over the long Friday-to-Monday New Year's holiday weekend. The Paramount release saw its four-day gross dip 13% to $38.2M. according to final studio figures, which lifted the cume to a sturdy $141.2M allowing the new chapter to surpass the $134M final domestic take of the previous film in the series, 2006's Mission: Impossible 3, in a mere 18 days of release. Successfully reviving a franchise that was thought to be dead, the $145M-budgeted Ghost Protocol is now on track to reach the $200M mark while the global gross is on a trajectory to smash the $500M barrier.

Overseas, the newest Mission: Impossible ruled for the third consecutive frame with an estimated $37M over the standard Friday-to-Sunday period from 54 markets for a robust international cume to date of $225.3M and global tally of $366.5M. Leading territory totals include $35.7M in Japan, $34.8M in Korea, $14.8M in France, $12.7M in the U.K., $12.2M in Russia, and $10.1M in India. With key markets like China and Italy still to open, the overseas tally will climb well above $300M.

Finishing the long weekend in second place was the season's other star-driven action sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which experienced an identical 13% slide to $26.9M over the Friday-to-Monday period. The big-budget Warner Bros. film has now grossed $136.9M after 18 days of play and is running 18% behind the $166.4M of its 2009 predecessor with Christmas and New Year's included in both totals. A final of $175-200M seems likely putting it below the $209M of the first Sherlock.

Following Robert Downey Jr. for the third straight weekend, the G-rated kidpic Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked enjoyed a 10% bump to $21.5M boosting the sum to $97.8M. The Fox pic is running 34% behind the pace of the first Alvin from 2007 which also opened in mid-December before the big holiday bump family films receive when schools close for Christmas. Chipwrecked may end up in the $130-140M range.

Holiday holdovers hope to keep the cash rolling in through mid-January since most college students are still out of school. Plus only one new film opens wide next weekend - the horror film The Devil Inside in 2,000+ theaters - so there will be little competition from new players until January 13 which is the start of the lucrative four-day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend which tends to be very busy at multiplexes.

Holding fourth place was 2011's top-grossing R-rated drama, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which took in $19.2M over four days raising the 13-day total to $60M. The Friday-to-Monday take was off a scant 2% giving the Sony title a better hold than the other two major movies playing to mature adults - Mission: Impossible and Sherlock Holmes - which each saw a decline of 13%. The American remake of the popular Swedish crime thriller should easily reach $90M and could possibly even hit the $100M mark in North America.

In its first full weekend of release, Steven Spielberg's War Horse grossed $18.1M over four days from 2,547 locations for a solid $7,091 average. Disney's release of the DreamWorks production has resulted in $44.1M in the nine days since its Christmas Day debut last Sunday. A final take of around $75M may result unless it shows strong legs.

Matt Damon's family dramedy We Bought a Zoo followed with $17M representing a nice 16% jump over its Christmas weekend debut. The Fox title has banked $44.5M in 11 days. Close behind was Spielberg's second offering of the season, The Adventures of Tintin, with $15.4M - up 2% - raising the total to $51.4M in 13 days.

The Warner Bros. dud New Year's Eve profited from its namesake holiday and saw sales soar by 46% to $7.6M. With $47.3M to date, the all-star comedy should see its numbers tumble into the new year now that its story is no longer relevant. Bad word-of-mouth won't help either. The 3D alien attack thriller The Darkest Hour ranked ninth with $5.2M, up 3%, giving Summit a modest $14.2M thus far. Oscar hopeful The Descendants rounded out the top ten surging 31% to $4.3M putting the Fox Searchlight hit at $40.3M with much of awards season still to go. Golden Globe wins and key Oscar nominations could keep the George Clooney film going all through January.

Sneaking in right before the end-of-year Oscar deadline were some awards contenders in platform release. Leading the way with a bang was Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher pic Iron Lady which bowed to $285,809 from just four locations for a scorching $71,452 average over four days for The Weinstein Co. Sony Classics opened the acclaimed Iranian film A Separation in three sites and grossed $86,518 for a strong $28,839 average over the long weekend. The film has been a dominant force during awards season in the foreign language race and is one of 63 films vying for the five Oscar nods in that category. The critically acclaimed lesbian drama Pariah bowed to $65,348 from four houses for a respectable $16,337 average and $101,755 since its Wednesday launch.

The top ten films grossed $173.3M over four days which was up from last year's three-day frame when Little Fockers stayed in the top spot with $25.8M; but down from 2009 when Avatar remained at number one with a huge $68.5M in is third round. Monday was not an observed holiday in those years. The overall marketplace over the long holiday session was up only 3% from six years ago when New Year's Day last fell on a Sunday indicating a substantial drop in attendance since ticket prices have climbed by more than 20% during that time.

Compared to four-day projections, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows were both on target with my respective forecasts of $39M and $26M while Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked came in a little ahead of my $23M prediction. War Horse and We Bought a Zoo each came very close to my $20M and $17M projections and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finished higher than my $16M forecast.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the chart for the Golden Globe Nominations and Grosses.

Watch the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. For reviews of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Adventures of Tintin visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Devil Inside opens.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Dec 30 - Jan 2 Dec 23 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol $ 38,202,439 $ 44,115,000 -13.4 3,455 3 $ 11,057 $ 141,186,646 Paramount
2 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 26,887,893 31,010,000 -13.3 3,703 3 7,261 136,910,219 Warner Bros.
3 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked 21,488,779 19,528,294 10.0 3,724 3 5,770 97,848,114 Fox
4 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 19,190,649 19,500,000 -1.6 2,914 2 6,586 59,950,953 Sony
5 War Horse 18,060,743 14,527,972 24.3 2,547 2 7,091 44,089,786 Disney
6 We Bought a Zoo 17,003,682 14,604,645 16.4 3,163 2 5,376 44,490,999 Fox
7 The Adventures of Tintin 15,361,463 15,105,000 1.7 3,087 2 4,976 51,400,450 Paramount
8 New Year's Eve 7,592,773 5,195,000 46.2 2,225 4 3,412 47,257,823 Warner Bros.
9 The Darkest Hour 5,240,912 5,072,000 3.3 2,327 2 2,252 14,215,634 Summit
10 The Descendants 4,291,019 3,271,980 31.1 758 7 5,661 40,315,665 Fox Searchlight
11 The Muppets 3,693,812 3,269,337 13.0 1,541 6 2,397 83,561,073 Disney
12 Hugo 3,320,903 3,125,000 6.3 951 6 3,492 50,313,495 Paramount
13 Young Adult 2,700,114 2,670,000 1.1 987 4 2,736 12,669,252 Paramount
14 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 2,655,680 2,382,000 11.5 1,411 7 1,882 276,125,476 Summit
15 The Sitter 2,172,279 2,497,342 -13.0 1,348 4 1,611 26,816,340 Fox
16 The Artist 1,715,143 1,315,261 30.4 167 6 10,270 5,448,717 Weinstein Co.
17 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 1,409,896 1,056,072 33.5 57 4 24,735 4,280,214 Focus
18 My Week With Marilyn 1,196,848 875,560 36.7 630 6 1,900 9,207,220 Weinstein Co.
19 Puss in Boots 1,006,899 685,000 47.0 389 10 2,588 145,738,327 Paramount
20 Arthur Christmas 936,096 2,500,000 -62.6 1,343 6 697 46,073,163 Sony
Top 5 $ 123,830,503 $ 129,258,294 -4.2
Top 10 173,320,352 171,929,891 0.8

Last Updated: January 3, 2012 at 7:55PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.