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Tom Cruise/MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 4 Easily Tops Box Office; Steven Spielberg/WAR HORSE Overperforming?

Paula Patton, Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible 4 Dubai
Paula Patton, Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible IV

As expected, Tom Cruise/Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol easily topped the North American box office this Christmas weekend. Ghost Protocol collected $26.53 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Cruise's latest was followed by Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with $17.8 million (-55 percent) and Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, with $13.32 million (-42 percent).

For comparison's sake: Back in 2005, when Christmas Day also fell on a Sunday, Peter Jackson/Naomi Watts/Jack Black's King Kong, Andrew Adamson/Tilda Swinton's The Chronicles of Narnia:The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Dean Parisot/Jim Carrey/Téa Leoni's Fun with Dick and Jane -- the top three movies at the U.S. and Canada box office -- took in a total of $55.4 million (approx. $68 million* today) from Friday to Sunday. As per studio estimates, this year's top three movies have brought in $57.65 million.

So, Christmas box office figures haven't been as dismal as some had predicted, but they haven't been all that great either. A Game of Shadows continues to lag behind the original Sherlock Holmes: $76.55 million vs. $138.71 million (not adjusted for inflation) after ten days out. Chip-Wrecked is even further behind Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: approx. $50.26 million vs. $133.72 million (not adjusted for inflation), also after ten days.

Besides Ghost Protocol, another silver lining at the North American box office -- one that should continue to perform quite well during the much busier New Year's weekend -- is Steven Spielberg's Christmas Day release War Horse. Deadline.com informs that Spielberg's drama about a horse sent to the trenches of World War I is expected to earn close to $7 million at 2,736 locations on Sunday alone.

The first live-action feature directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), in addition to Tom Cruise the Ghost Protocol cast includes Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist (of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Simon Pegg, Vladimir Nashkov, Léa Seydoux, and Anil Kapoor. Mission: Impossible 4 cost about $145m. Domestic total: $58.97m. Overseas, the latest Mission: Impossible movie has brought in more than $100m.

Supporting Robert Downey Jr in A Game of Shadows are Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Jared Harris, Paul Anderson, the American The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Geraldine James, and Eddie Marsan. A Game of Shadows was budgeted at $125m.

Chip-Wrecked, which cost about $80m, features the voices and/or bodies of Jason Lee, Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Cross, Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate, and Matthew Gray Gubler.

* Unfortunately, inflation-adjusted movie-ticket-price estimates don't separate costlier 3D movies from regular 2D fare.

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Tom Cruise/Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol picture: David James / Paramount Pictures

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