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Mark Wahlberg/CONTRABAND Surprises, Meryl Streep/THE IRON LADY Strong: Box Office

Ben Foster, Contraband
Ben Foster, Contraband

According to Deadline.com, this four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend the North American box office could reach $165 million – or up about 4 percent compared to last year. Considering the disappointing returns in late 2011, a modest increase is good news indeed for the jittery Hollywood studios.

Helping things out are the Mark Wahlberg crime thriller Contraband, which earned an estimated $9 million on Friday and may reach $30 million by Monday evening. Box Office Mojo was expecting the film to bring in only $18.5 million. Anyhow, if those early estimates are correct, that's a solid start for a movie that reportedly cost $25 million (not including marketing/distribution expenses).

A remake of Óskar Jónasson's 2008 Icelandic hit Reykjavik-Rotterdam, Contraband was directed by Baltasar Kormákur, the original film's star-producer. In addition to Wahlberg Contraband features Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna, Ben Foster, Lukas Haas, Caleb Landry Jones, and J.K. Simmons.

Disney's 3D-ification of the first animated feature to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination, Beauty and the Beast 3D (originally released in standard format back in 1991), was the no. 2 movie on Friday, grossing $5.5 million at 2,625 locations. The four-day weekend total should hover around $25.5 million. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise directed. Robby Benson, Paige O'Hara, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, Jo Anne Worley, and David Ogden Stiers were some of the voice actors.

At no. 3 on Friday, Todd Graff's Joyful Noise, starring Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, and veteran Kris Kristofferson, collected $3.8 million at 2,863 theaters. Though more than some had been predicting, that's hardly a great figure. The four-day total should reach close to $15 million, which is about $3 million above Box Office Mojo's predictions, but will that be enough for Joyful Noise to eventually recover its modest $25 million budget at the domestic box office? Films such as Joyful Noise are strictly American fare. Alcon Entertainment produced the religious-themed musical/dramatic comedy; Warner Bros. is the distributor.

Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is fast approaching the $200 million milestone at the domestic box office. Following an estimated $3.5 million on Friday and $14.5 million by Monday evening, MI4's total should cume close to $190 million. Cruise's latest will surely pass the $200 million mark by next weekend.

Last weekend's no. 1 movie, the horror movie The Devil Inside, plummeted on its second weekend out, collecting $2.6 million on Friday and an expected $8.7 million by Monday evening. Despite the huge drop (over 70 percent), the cheaply made – but heavily marketed – horror flick will have taken in about $47 million after 10 days.

And finally, Meryl Streep's The Iron Lady should rake in close to $5.5 million by Monday evening at 802 sites. That's near $7,000 per site over the four-day weekend, a not inconsiderable figure for a movie centering on an divisive (female) political figure, and one that was received a mostly cool reception from critics. Streep, who has earned glowing personal reviews, is a favorite contender for the Best Actress - Drama Golden Globe this Sunday. The Iron Lady rests on her steely shoulders. Phyllida Lloyd, who guided Streep in the musical blockbuster Mamma Mia!, directed.

Remember, those are early, rough estimates. Official Friday estimates will be released Saturday morning. Weekend estimates come out on Sunday. Extended weekend estimates should be out on Monday. And weekend actuals on Tuesday.

Ben Foster/Contraband photo: Universal Pictures

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