Weekend Box Office (January 13 - 16, 2012)

by Sujit Chawla

THIS WEEKEND Mark Wahlberg's action-thriller Contraband took control of the four-day Martin Luther King holiday box office this weekend, while the latest Disney 3D re-release did relatively well and last weekend's champ crashed and burned in its second go around.

Giving off some good vibrations this weekend was Universal's Contraband, which opened with $28.5M over the Friday-to-Monday period from 2,863 playdates, for a four-day per screen average of $9,960. Wahlberg is a surprisingly strong draw at the box office, with all of his wide releases over the last decade opening in the double digits. His box office history reminds me of a poor man's Denzel Washington, just without the accolades. Audiences dug the film as evidenced by its A- grade from Cinemascore and women made up 49% of the crowd, high for an R-rated action film.

Second place went to the 3D re-release Beauty and the Beast, which follows last year's huge re-release of The Lion King. Beast opened with $22.2M for a per screen average of $8,462. It didn't quite reach the heights of The Lion King, which opened last September to $30.2M, but for a 20 year old film, it's still pretty strong, especially when you consider the 3D Blu-ray has been on sale for 3 months already. Beast also now holds the record for highest opening weekend for an animated film in January, taking down Hoodwinked from this weekend in 2006. If there's any company that knows how to milk their products for all they're worth, it's Disney. They've got Finding Nemo ready for 3D later this year.

Tom Cruise's latest impossible mission fell to number three with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol taking in $14.2M over the long weekend. Its total now stands at $189.4M, with the $200M barrier ready to fall next week.

The musical notes of Joyful Noise opened in fourth place this weekend, with $13.8M, for a per screen average of a decent $5,047. Starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, the film also received an A- from Cinemascore, meaning that it might have some legs over the next few weeks.

A franchise star arrived in the next spot. Robert Downey, Jr. (star of not one, but two current major franchises) landed in fifth place this week with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows which dipped to $10.4M, bringing its cume to $172M after five weeks.

And the moment we've been waiting for... last week's shocking box office champ The Devil Inside completely collapsed in its second weekend tumbling 73% to $9M. The drop, which covers the Friday-to-Sunday portion, was one of the worst in box office history, which isn't surprising considering a) horror films generally are front-loaded and b) the reviews were downright horrible (which still may be too nice). Still, with a total take of $47.4M so far, Paramount is laughing all the way to the bank, and we can expect to see even more of these low budget, found footage films in the future.

Seventh place belonged to Craig, Daniel Craig and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which fell to $8M, bringing its total up to $89.2M. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked followed in eighth place with $8M bringing its cume to $121M after five laps. Ninth place belonged to even more animals as Matt Damon's We Bought A Zoo took in $7.4M over the long weekend and $65.9M to date for Fox. The Steven Spielberg-directed War Horse brought in $7.4M bringing its total up to $67.5M.

Meryl Streep's latest bid for a third Oscar, the Margaret Thatcher political drama The Iron Lady, did well in its nationwide expansion after two weeks of platform release. The Weinstein Co. title grossed $6.6M from 802 sites (up from 5) averaging a solid $8,265 per theater. The three-day average of $6,749 was almost identical to last weekend's expansion of another British political drama Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which debuted in 809 locations for a similar $6,772 average playing to an older upscale crowd.

The top ten films over the four-day weekend grossed $129M which was off 1% from last year when The Green Hornet opened in the top spot with $40M; and down 30% from 2010 when Avatar remained at number one with $54.4M in its fifth frame.

Compared to three-day projections, Contraband opened higher than Gitesh's $16M forecast, while Beauty and the Beast opened on target with his $19M prediction, and Joyful Noise came in just below his $14M estimate.

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

Check the UPDATED charts for the Golden Globe Winners and Grosses and the Top 20 Films of 2011.

For reviews of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for next weekend's preview when Haywire, Red Tails, and Underworld: Awakening all open.

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

# Title Jan 13 - 16 Jan 6 - 8 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Contraband $ 28,515,480 2,863 1 $ 9,960 $ 28,515,480 Universal
2 Beauty and the Beast 3D 22,213,922 2,625 1 8,462 22,213,922 Disney
3 Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol 14,201,823 19,868,059 -28.5 3,346 5 4,244 189,448,612 Paramount
4 Joyful Noise 13,802,308 2,735 1 5,047 13,802,308 Warner Bros.
5 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 10,444,071 13,689,321 -23.7 3,155 5 3,310 172,043,715 Warner Bros.
6 The Devil Inside 9,034,861 33,732,515 -73.2 2,551 2 3,542 47,381,708 Paramount
7 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 8,032,763 11,364,714 -29.3 2,674 4 3,004 89,213,612 Sony
8 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked 8,002,573 9,496,913 -15.7 2,849 5 2,809 120,983,861 Fox
9 We Bought a Zoo 7,369,231 8,305,797 -11.3 2,909 4 2,533 65,857,765 Fox
10 War Horse 7,350,537 8,679,470 -15.3 2,856 4 2,574 67,522,500 Disney
11 The Iron Lady 6,628,448 176,374 802 3 8,265 7,216,069 Weinstein Co.
12 The Adventures of Tintin 5,624,780 6,727,740 -16.4 2,073 4 2,713 69,329,986 Paramount
13 Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 3,864,053 5,478,521 -29.5 886 6 4,361 15,806,593 Focus
14 The Descendants 2,923,986 2,584,137 13.2 660 9 4,430 47,928,182 Fox Searchlight
15 The Artist 1,604,416 1,120,111 43.2 216 8 7,428 9,201,195 Weinstein Co.
16 Hugo 1,546,579 1,600,751 -3.4 545 8 2,838 54,663,234 Paramount
17 The Darkest Hour 1,264,849 3,124,316 -59.5 1,182 4 1,070 20,714,023 Summit
18 New Year's Eve 1,216,461 3,107,343 -60.9 1,092 6 1,114 53,870,588 Warner Bros.
19 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 925,478 1,472,095 -37.1 708 9 1,307 279,795,163 Summit
20 Carnage 861,596 109,338 688.0 494 5 1,744 1,448,061 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 89,177,604 $ 88,151,522 1.2
Top 10 128,967,569 120,467,366 7.1
Top 20 155,428,215 135,561,015 14.7
Top 20 vs. MLK 2011 155,428,215 153,812,032 1.1

Last Updated: January 17, 2012 at 7:30PM ET

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