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'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' Way Behind Original: Box Office

Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Jude Law as Dr. Watson, Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Not unexpectedly, following its relatively weak Thursday midnight opening – $1.25 million at about 1,600 locations – the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr period actioner Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is trailing its predecessor by a large margin. Whereas the 2009 Sherlock Holmes opened with $62.3 million on Christmas weekend (admittedly, when people are out of school/work), A Game of Shadows is expected to collect a mere $42.4 million at 3,703 locations – after grossing $16 million on Friday (including the midnight screenings) according to early, rough estimates found at Deadline.com. So much for Sherlock Holmes 2 helping to save the North American box office from its current morass.

Now, the low forties figure isn't exactly good news for distributor Warner Bros. A Game of Shadows' budget is reportedly around $125 million, about one third more than that of the original Sherlock Holmes.

Reviewers, for their part, have hardly been enthusiastic about the sequel. A Game of Shadows has a mediocre 46 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. If the domestic word of mouth is as bad as the reviews, A Game of Shadows' only hope will be the international market – the true (offsite) savior of the North American box office.

The original Sherlock Holmes went on to gross $209.02 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to $315 million overseas. Its worldwide total was $524.02m.

Supporting Robert Downey Jr in A Game of Shadows are Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Jared Harris, Paul Anderson, Geraldine James, and Eddie Marsan.

Also underperforming – especially compared to its predecessor – is Mike Mitchell's animated feature Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, which is expected to collect about $25.8 million over the weekend after an estimated $7.1 million at 3,723 locations on Friday. Back on Christmas 2009, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel pulled in $48.87 million on its debut weekend. At that time, the Chipmunks even surpassed James Cameron's mighty Avatar on their first day out, Dec. 23.

The latest Alvin and the Chipmunks annoyance features the voices and/or bodies of Jason Lee, Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Cross, Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate, and Matthew Gray Gubler. Fed up movie reviewers have overwhelmingly disliked it. Chip-Wrecked has a sinking 12 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows photo: Daniel Smith / Warner Bros.

Tom Cruise, Ghost Protocol, Ethan Hunt, Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

The silver lining at the North American box office this weekend is the Brad Bird/Tom Cruise $140 million-budgeted combo Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which has raked in an impressive, IMAX-boosted $4.6 million – including $1 million from Thursday midnight showings – at only 425 locations (300 of which IMAX theaters). As per The Hollywood Reporter, Ghost Protocol should bring in $12 million by Sunday evening. If so, that would represent an outstanding, even considering the IMAX surcharges, $28,400 per-theater average.

For comparison's sake, Mission: Impossible III earned $47.74 million at 4,054 theaters in July 2006 (approx. $58 million today), averaging $11,776 per site (approx. $14,000 today). At a little more than one tenth of the number of theaters, Ghost Protocol is expected to take in more than one fifth of the inflation-adjusted gross of its predecessor. Even taking the IMAX surcharges into account, that's quite impressive.

Admittedly, the eagerly anticipated previews of Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale's Warner Bros.-distributed The Dark Knight Rises at several dozen IMAX locations didn't hinder matters any for Paramount's Ghost Protocol.

Budgeted at $150 million, Mission: Impossible III ultimately grossed a relatively disappointing $134.02 million at the North American box office. Overseas, however, the third installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise fared much better, earning $263.82 million. Its worldwide total was $397.85 million – the eighth biggest that year. Not bad for a flop that even led Viacom (Paramount's parent company) head Sumner Redstone to publicly berate Cruise for his Oprah Winfrey and Brooke Shields antics. (Cruise's crass, vulgar Les Grossman is an obvious – and quite funny – Redstone parody.)

Also in the Ghost Protocol cast: Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist (of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Simon Pegg, Vladimir Nashkov, Léa Seydoux, and Anil Kapoor.

Last weekend's top movie, New Year's Eve, was down two spots with about $2.4 million at no. 3 on Friday, and an estimated $7.7 million for the weekend. If those estimates are correct, after ten days (including two weekends), New Year's Eve will have earned less than half (about $25m) than its all-star predecessor, Valentine's Day.

Directed by Garry Marshall, New Year's Eve stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Common, Jessica Biel, Seth Meyers, Sarah Paulson, Til Schweiger, Carla Gugino, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, Sofia Vergara, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, James Belushi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Penny Marshall, Cherry Jones, Hilary Swank, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Hector Elizondo, and Ryan Seacrest.

Now ahead of Jonah Hill's The Sitter, Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, collected an estimated $1.3 million in fifth place. Breaking Dawn is expected to gross $4.2 million over the weekend, for a domestic cume of $266.4 million – the third biggest of the year in North America. If those early estimates are correct, Breaking Dawn will be down a relatively modest (for the Twilight series) 46 percent despite the loss of about 650 theaters. The $300m mark seems out of reach, but Breaking Dawn will possibly cume at $285m-$290m, as predicted on opening weekend.

The extensive Breaking Dawn cast includes Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Dakota Fanning, MyAnna Buring, Booboo Stewart, and Michael Sheen.

Plus Maggie Grace, Lee Pace, Sarah Clarke, Anna Kendrick, Christian Serratos, Christopher Heyerdahl, Michael Welch, Christian Camargo, Julia Jones, Gil Birmingham, Kiowa Gordon, Billy Burke, Bronson Pelletier, Charlie Bewley, Tyson Houseman, Daniel Cudmore, Jamie Campbell Bower, Casey LaBow, Mia Maestro, and Alex Meraz.

Tom Cruise/Simon Pegg/Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol photo: David James / Paramount Pictures

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