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'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol': Tom Cruise Savior?

Jan. 2, '12, update: That Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol would easily top the North American box office this four-day New Year's weekend was no surprise. Directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille) and starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, and Paula Patton, MI4 brought in $38.32 million (+30 percent) as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Weekend box office actuals will be released tomorrow. [Photo: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart in Breaking Dawn - Part 1.]

At a distant no. 2, Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows collected $26.51 million (up 31 percent), followed by Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked's $21 million (up 67 percent). Rounding out the top five were Steven Spielberg's War Horse with $19.21 million (up 156 percent) and David Fincher/Daniel Craig/Rooney Mara's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with $19 million (up 49 percent). The last two movies may switch positions when actual box office numbers are released tomorrow.

Breaking Dawn 1 movie, Robert Pattinson, Kristen StewartThe biggest surprise among the top fifteen movies was the unexpected resurgence of Bill Condon's Breaking Dawn - Part 1. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, the fourth Twilight movie added $2.65 million, landing at no. 14.

Despite the loss of nearly 200 locations, Breaking Dawn 1 was up 81 percent compared to the previous weekend; its box office jump was the third-highest surge this extended weekend, following – not unexpectedly – Garry Marshall/Zac Efron/Michelle Pfeiffer's New Year's Eve with up 134 percent and (less predictably) Alexander Payne/George Clooney's The Descendants with up 105 percent after adding five locations. (I'm not including War Horse's 156 percent jump because the Spielberg movie opened on Sunday last week. In other words, that weekend's take reflected only one single day; hence the major surge.)

After seven weekends out, Breaking Dawn 1's domestic cume currently stands at $276.09 million. Its reported cost was $110 million. The fantasy romance also features Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Michael Sheen, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene, Dakota Fanning, and Kellan Lutz.

Jan. 1

Tom Cruise, MI4 Ghost Protocol, Ethan Hunt
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, MI4 - Ghost Protocol

This New Year's weekend is either a promising or a foreboding gateway to the North American box office in 2012. Looking at various news reports – some rosy, some gloomy – it all depends on what color glasses the writers had on, or what sort of spin they wanted to give to the Dec. 30, 2011-Jan. 1, 2012 box office revenues.

Figures for the top twelve movies totaled an estimated $151 million, or about 1.5 percent above last year. Sounds promising? Well, a modest gain is better than no gain – and certainly much better than either modest or immodest losses. Compared to the Jan. 1-3, 2010, weekend, however, this weekend's figures are down 28 percent as a result of James Cameron's Avatar phenomenon.

Now, ignoring Avatar as if it had never existed, and adding the revenues of early 2010's three runners-up – Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and the Meryl Streep/Steve Martin/Alec Baldwin romantic comedy It's Complicated – we get $90.59 million – or about $96 million today. (I should add that all three movies were on their second weekend out and that Monday, Jan. 4, was not a holiday; in other words, this was a “regular” three-day weekend.) Combined, this weekend's top three hits, Brad Bird/Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Ritchie/Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked totaled $73.6 million, partly thanks to expected solid Sunday business, as Monday is a holiday.

Another comparison, back to 2005, when New Year's Day also fell on a Sunday. Led by The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter Jackson/Naomi Watts' King Kong, and Jim Carrey/Téa Leoni's Fun with Dick and Jane, the top twelve movies grossed $131.43 million – or approx. $163 million today. Once again, figures for 2011 totaled an estimated $151 million. That's down (adjusting for inflation) about 7.5 percent.

So, is this last weekend of 2011/first weekend of 2012 a promising or a foreboding entry into the new year? We'll find out in 12 months' time.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol photo: David James / Paramount Pictures

MI4 Tom Cruise Ghost Protocol movie
Tom Cruise, Ghost Protocol

If studio estimates are correct, Brad Bird/Tom Cruise's Paramount-distributed Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is now officially the most successful December release at the domestic box office: $134.13 million (after adding $31.25 million this weekend) vs. Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' $132.1 million (after adding $22.09 million) according to figures found at Box Office Mojo.

More good news for MI4 - Ghost Protocol: if estimates are correct, after 17 days the IMAX-assisted Ghost Protocol has already surpassed the total domestic box office take of its predecessor, Mission: Impossible III. That is, if you choose to ignore higher ticket prices.

Adjusting for inflation, MI3's $134.02 million would be magically turned into approximately $163 million today. Even so, MI4 is undeniably outperforming MI3 by a wide margin. In fact, by next weekend the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise should surpass the inflation-adjusted box office take of the third one. Once again, this is proof positive that North American moviegoers are very much tired of sequels and of watching the very same characters over and over again.

For the record, Mission: Impossible II grossed $145.71 million (about $215 million today) after 17 days in spring 2000. During that same time frame, the original Mission: Impossible collected $120.41 million (about $217 million today) in spring 1996. It was a very different movie world then. Imagine, people still watched movies on VHS tapes – and only months after their theatrical release.

The first live-action feature directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), the $145 million-budgeted Ghost Protocol cast also 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.

As for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the good news is that it's narrowing the gap with the original Sherlock Holmes, which came out two years ago. After 10 days, A Game of Shadows was about $58 million behind the first Sherlock Holmes; after 17 days, the gap has narrowed to $33 million. Sounds impressive? Well, it's definitely not unimpressive, but one must remember that by Day 17, the original Sherlock Holmes was approaching mid-January. The last holiday had been the week before. Unless A Game of Shadows has truly developed some sturdy legs, there's a good chance that the narrowing gap between the two Sherlock Holmes movies will be transformed into a widening one within the next week.

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 $125 million.

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Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol photo: David James / Paramount Pictures

Jeremy Irvine, War Horse
Jeremy Irvine, War Horse

At the North American box office, trailing Tom Cruise/Jeremy Renner/Paula Patton's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law/Noomi Rapace's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, which pulled in $18.25 million at no. 3 according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. After 17 days, Chip-Wrecked has collected $94.6 million. Two years ago, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel collected $165.35 million during that same period. Since the picture is quite clear, I won't even bother attempting to adjust The Squeakquel's figure for inflation.

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.

Now at 2,547 theaters, Steven Spielberg's War Horse is galloping at a slower pace. At no. 4 with an estimated $16.94 million, War Horse's per-theater average was a just okay $6,651. For comparison's sake: at 3,455 locations, MI4 - Ghost Protocol's average was $9,045. True, MI4 has the advantage of higher IMAX ticket prices – but only at a few hundred theaters. And all things being equal, the lower the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. MI4 is playing at about 900 more locations than War Horse.

As for War Horse's soaring 125 percent compared to last weekend … Well, don't be fooled. War Horse opened last Sunday. It played only one day over the weekend. After eight days, War Horse has taken in $42.96 million. Its budget was reportedly $70 million.

In addition to its four-legged star(s), War Horse features Jeremy Irvine, two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, Hilary and Jackie), Thor's Tom Hiddleston, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell, David Kross, Celine Buckens, Patrick Kennedy, Robert Emms, and Eddie Marsan.

At no. 5, David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which stars Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, raked in $16.3 million at 2,914 sites, averaging an okay $5,595 per theater. After twelve days, the $90-million thriller's total is a somewhat underwhelming $57.1 million.

In addition to Craig, who hasn't been much of a box office draw (Cowboys & Aliens, Dream House) when not playing James Bond, and Golden Globe nominee Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkhoff, Geraldine James, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Ulf Friberg, Donald Sumpter, and Tony Way.

Jeremy Irvine/War Horse photo: David Appleby / DreamWorks

Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, New Year's Eve
Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, New Year's Eve

Starring Matt Damon and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo brought in $14.3 million at no. 6 as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. After surging 53 percent, the film's per-theater average was a better-than-expected $4,521 at 3,163 locations. As mentioned in a previous post (see further below), despite its performance this New Year's weekend, We Bought a Zoo will have quite a bit of trouble recovering its $50 million budget domestically. Matching it, however, shouldn't be too much a problem despite my early, more dire prediction.

We Bought a Zoo, Crowe's first narrative feature since the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst/Susan Sarandon box office fiasco Elizabethtown six years ago, also features Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones. I'll say it again: when it comes to box office returns, perhaps it's time for Cameron Crowe to pair up with Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky) one more time.

At no. 7, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin drew $12 million at 3,087 theaters. To date, the $125 million motion-capture animated 3D feature has collected $47.87 million domestically. Considering that Tintin has the advantage of higher ticket prices, the North American box office total – despite an enthusiastic reception in Quebec – is disappointing.

Co-produced by Peter Jackson, The Adventures of Tintin features Jamie Bell as Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Ghost Protocol's Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost.

Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve scored $6.74 million – up 103 percent, for obvious reasons – at no. 8. The all-star omnibus comedy-drama features Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, among others. Domestic total to date: $46.37 million after four weekends.

Rounding out the top twelve were Chris Gorak/Emile Hirsch/Olivia Thirlby's The Darkest Hour with $4.3 million (total: $13.2 million), George Clooney/Alexander Payne's The Descendants with $3.65 million (total: $39.67 million), Jason Segel/Amy Adams' The Muppets with $2.58 million (total: $82.45 million), and Martin Scorsese/Asa Butterfield's Hugo with $2.52 million (total: $49.53m).

Jason Reitman/Charlize Theron's Young Adult and Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart/Taylor Lautner's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 tied in 13th place with $2 million each. Breaking Dawn's 36 percent surge compared to last weekend was particularly surprising. Total after seven weekends: $275.44 million. How far beyond the inevitable $280 millionBreaking Dawn will reach depends on how steep the drop-off rate next (non-holiday) weekend.

Dec. 29

Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Daniel Radcliffe in the biggest domestic hit of 2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

In 2011, Hollywood movies should earn the major studios $10.2 billion at the North American box office. That's down 3.5 percent from 2010, according to Hollywood.com. An estimated 1.28 billion tickets have been sold this year, which represents a 4.4 percent decline from 2010 and the lowest figure since 1995, the year of the talking pig Babe and Mel Gibson's Braveheart, when admissions totaled 1.26 billion.

Among the suggested reasons for the downturn there are some that make perfect sense and some that are ludicrous. The weak U.S. economy matched with high ticket prices is almost undeniably keeping people away from movie houses. In fact, that has happened in the past, most notably during the height of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, when the majority of the big Hollywood studios posted heavy losses. Indeed, several almost went bankrupt.

The fact that movies nowadays can be watched on DVD or VOD about three months after they're released in theaters is another good reason for people to refuse to pay $12 or $15 or $18 for a movie ticket. That may also help to explain why kiddie flicks – or “family movies” – have, relatively speaking, fared poorly this year (e.g., Happy Feet Two, Arthur Christmas, The Muppets, and, to some extent, Kung Fu Panda 2). How many families can afford $100 weekends at the movies when parents, guardians, or what-have-you can rent a title for less than one-tenth of that amount and show it to an audience of four or five – or ten?

Now, to say that North Americans have grown tired of sequels is pretty absurd. The top seven domestic releases this year are all sequels:

  • Daniel Radcliffe/Ralph Fiennes/Emma Watson/Rupert Grint's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,
  • Michael Bay/Shia LaBeouf/Rosie Huntington-Whiteley/Josh Duhamel's Transformers: Dark of the Moon,
  • Bill Condon/Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart/Taylor Lautner's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1,
  • Todd Phillips/Bradley Cooper/Zach Galifianakis/Ed Helms' The Hangover Part II,
  • Rob Marshall/Johnny Depp/Penélope Cruz/Geoffrey Rush's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,
  • Justin Lin/Paul Walker/Vin Diesel's Fast Five,
  • and John Lasseter's Cars 2, the year's top kiddie flick by a wide margin.

Those seven movies combined have so far brought in $1.9 billion – or nearly 20 percent of the year's total take. And the current hit at American and Canadian movie theaters is none other than Brad Bird/Tom Cruise/Jeremy Renner/Paula Patton's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. As clearly indicated by its title, that's the fourth installment in Cruise's Mission: Impossible decade-long franchise.

As for the availability of new gadgets keeping people busy at home staring at their iPads and iPods … Well, does that mean only North Americans have access to those? Business overseas has remained quite strong. This year, for instance, as per Screen International Paramount became the first Hollywood studio ever to pass the $3 billion mark abroad.

One Warner Bros. general sales manager has placed some of the blame for the domestic downturn on more “gaming and social-networking opportunities.” But wait. Wasn't “gaming,” Twitter, Facebook, etc. all very much available when Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes came out in late 2009? That Warner Bros. release starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law fared much better domestically than the current sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

It would be interesting to discover why some troubled European economies such as France and Germany continue to generate solid box office revenues in US dollars despite not only the eurozone economic turmoil, but also a devaluation of the euro itself in the last five months.

In France, for instance, the top two movies of 2011 are Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's socially conscious comedy-drama The Intouchables / The Intouchables, starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy, and the Dany Boon/Benoît Poelvoorde comedy Rien à déclarer / Nothing to Declare. Those two titles have a combined gross of nearly $200 million according to the Box Office Mojo chart. France's top two movies of 2010, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Shrek Forever After earned less than $100 million.

Perhaps the French don't have access to video games, Facebook, or Apple products?

Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 picture: Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros.

Tom Cruise Ethan Hunt, Ghost Protocol MI4
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

Dec. 25, '11, update: Tom Cruise/Brad Bird's Paramount-distributed Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol topped the North American box office this Christmas weekend, collecting $29.5 million – three million more than estimates released yesterday – according to revised studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Not to be left too far behind, 20th Century Fox also upped its estimates for Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows by $2.5 million – to $20.26 million. Ghost Protocol is expected to earn $46.21 million for the four-day weekend; A Game of Shadows $31.81 million.

For comparison's sake: Back in 2005, when Christmas Day also fell on a Sunday, the three leaders at the domestic box office were Peter Jackson/Naomi Wattss' King Kong, Andrew Adamson/Tilda Swinton's The Chronicles of Narnia:The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Jim Carrey/Téa Leoni's Fun with Dick and Jane. Among the other movies out that weekend were Steve Martin's Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Steven Spielberg's Munich, Daniel Radcliffe's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, and Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha. The box office total that weekend was $111.23 million – or about $138 million today. If studios estimates are correct, Christmas weekend 2011 should net $125.49 million. Still, that's up 10 percent compared to last year, when Christmas fell on a Saturday and Christmas Eve on a Friday – the two busiest moviegoing days of the week.

The first live-action feature directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), the $145 million-budgeted Ghost Protocol cast also 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.

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 $125 million.

As per revised studio estimates, the no. 3 movie this weekend is David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, now about $100,000 ahead of the former no. 3 movie (as per yesterday's estimates), Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked. Those two titles may continue their little box office dance when actuals are released on Tuesday. In fact, Chip-Wrecked remains ahead of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for the four-day weekend: $20 million vs. $19.4 million.

Fincher's $90-million thriller starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig took in $12.75 million at 2,914 sites, averaging a so-so $4,375 per theater. Its total to date is $21.12 million. In addition to Craig, who hasn't been much of a box office draw (Cowboys & Aliens, Dream House) when not playing James Bond, and Golden Globe nominee Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkhoff, Geraldine James, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Ulf Friberg, Donald Sumpter, and Tony Way.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked pulled in $12.65 million at no. 4. Chip-Wrecked, which cost about $80 millionand has been quite a disappointment when compared to its predecessors, features the voices and/or bodies of Jason Lee, Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Cross, Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate, and Matthew Gray Gubler.

At no. 5, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin drew $9.7 million at 3,087 theaters, averaging only $3,144 per site ($16.1 million for the four-day weekend and a slightly more acceptable $5,215 average). To date, the $125 million motion-capture animated feature has collected a meager $17.71 million domestically (a not inconsiderable chunk of it in French-speaking Quebec, where Tintin has already grossed more than $3.2 million). The good news: overseas, The Adventures of Tintin has pulled in more than $240 million.

Co-produced by Peter Jackson, The Adventures of Tintin features Jamie Bell as Tintin, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Mission: Impossible IV's Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol photo: David James / Paramount Pictures

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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 (down 55 percent) and Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, with $13.32 million (down 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 $145 million. Domestic total: $58.97 million. Overseas, the latest Mission: Impossible movie has brought in more than $100 million.

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 $125 million.

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.

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

Steven Spielberg, War Horse, Jeremy Irvine
Jeremy Irvine, Steven Spielberg on the set of War Horse

Despite the presence of Matt Damon and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo brought in a revised $9.5 million – nearly $2 million more than originally estimated – at no. 6 as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Even so, the film's per-theater average was a mere $3,032 at 3,117 locations ($15.6 million for the four-day weekend; average $5,005). As mentioned in a previous post, although figures will almost inevitably go up next weekend thanks to the New Year's holiday, We Bought a Zoo will have quite a bit of trouble matching – let alone recovering – its $50 million budget domestically. Perhaps it's time for Cameron Crowe to pair up with Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky) once again.

We Bought a Zoo, Crowe's first narrative feature since the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst/Susan Sarandon box office fiasco Elizabethtown six years ago, also features Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones.

The no. 7 movie this Christmas weekend at the domestic box office as Steven Spielberg's War Horse, which earned an estimated $7.51 million on opening day – Sunday. At 2,376 locations, War Horse's per-theater average on a single day was an impressive $3,162. Distributor Disney is clearly expecting great Monday business as well: estimates have War Horse grossing $15.02 million over the four-day weekend.

In addition to its four-legged star(s), War Horse features Jeremy Irvine, two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, Hilary and Jackie), Thor's Tom Hiddleston, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell, David Kross, Celine Buckens, Patrick Kennedy, Robert Emms, and Eddie Marsan.

Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve scored $3.31 million at no. 8. The all-star omnibus comedy-drama features Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, among others. Domestic total to date: a meager $32.65 million.

Barely sneaking into the top ten – at no. 9 – was Sunday's other wide release, The Darkest Hour, an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller screening at 2,324 locations. Directed by former art director Chris Gorak (Minority Report, Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), The Darkest Hour grossed $3 million, averaging a not-unexpectedly weak $1,291 per site ($5.5 million Fri-Mon; average $2,367). The film stars Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, and Rachael Taylor.

Jeremy Irvine/Steven Spielberg/War Horse photo: David Appleby / DreamWorks

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Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo movie
Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo

Though definitely trailing Tom Cruise/Jeremy Renner/Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the David Fincher-directed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake earned only about $300,000 less than Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked in North America this weekend. As per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo, Fincher's $90-million thriller starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig took in $13 million at 2,914 sites, averaging a so-so $4,461 per theater. Its total to date is $21.4 million.

In addition to Craig, who hasn't been much of a box office draw (Cowboys & Aliens, Dream House) when not playing James Bond, and Golden Globe nominee Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkhoff, Geraldine James, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Ulf Friberg, Donald Sumpter, and Tony Way.

Unlike War Horse, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin has been performing poorly in English-speaking North America. At no. 5, the Tintin movie raked in an estimated $9.12 million at 3,087 theaters, averaging only $2,956 per site. To date, the $125 million motion-capture animated feature has collected a meager $17.13 million domestically (a not inconsiderable chunk of it in French-speaking Quebec, where Tintin has already grossed more than $3.2 million). The good news: overseas, The Adventures of Tintin has pulled in more than $240 million. Moviegoers abroad have thus guaranteed the healthy release of the upcoming sequel.

Co-produced by Peter Jackson, The Adventures of Tintin features Jamie Bell as Tintin, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Mission: Impossible IV's Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost.

Despite the presence of Matt Damon and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo brought in $7.8 million at no. 6, averaging a paltry $2,502 at 3,117 locations. Although figures will almost inevitably go up next weekend thanks to the New Year's holiday, We Bought a Zoo will have quite a bit of trouble matching – let alone recovering – its $50 million budget domestically. Perhaps it's time for Cameron Crowe to pair up with Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky) once again.

We Bought a Zoo, Crowe's first narrative feature since the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst/Susan Sarandon box office flop Elizabethtown back in 2005, has a so-so 65 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. The film's screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna of the Meryl Streep-Anne Hathaway hit The Devil Wears Prada, had a major critical and box office flop a few weeks ago, the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy I Don't Know How She Does It, which earned less than $10 million in North America.

In addition to Damon and Johansson, the We Bought a Zoo cast includes Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones. We Bought a Zoo is a 20th Century Fox release.

We Bought a Zoo picture: Neal Preston / 20th Century Fox.

Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Breaking Dawn
Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Breaking Dawn

Rounding out the top ten at the domestic box office this Christmas weekend was Amy Adams-Jason Segel's The Muppets with $2.14 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. And that means Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, went the way of its three predecessors: David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Chris Weisz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight were all gone from the top-ten chart after five weekends.

What's most surprising is how far down on the chart Breaking Dawn landed: no. 16 (both for the tree-day and the four-day weekend periods). Summit has lowered the film's estimates from $2.1 million to $1.52 million – which means a major 64 percent drop-off rate from the previous weekend following the loss of 1,355 locations. For comparison's sake: on Christmas weekend 2009 (Christmas fell on a Friday), New Moon was down only 31 percent from the previous weekend despite the loss of 1,442 locations; it earned $3.04 million. At this stage, it seems that Breaking Dawn will end its North American run about $20m+ behind both Eclipse and New Moon, or about $178m-$180 million. Earlier predictions had the fourth Twilight movie cuming at $185m-$190 million.

Also worth noting, both Martin Scorsese's Hugo and The Muppets had much better holds than Breaking Dawn despite steep reductions in available screens: Hugo was down 43 percent after losing 1,296 sites; The Muppets was down 39 percent after losing 1,272 sites.

In addition to The Muppets and Hugo, ahead of Breaking Dawn - Part 1 are George Clooney's The Descendants, Sarah Smith/James McAvoy's animated feature Arthur Christmas, Jonah Hill's The Sitter, and Jason Reitman/Charlize Theron's Young Adult. Even so, Breaking Dawn has managed to reach a domestic cume of $270.32 million. And remember: there may be some more switching around when weekend box office actuals are released on Tuesday.

In addition to Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner, 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.

And finally, Stephen Daldry's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, despite the presence of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, averaged a just okay $11,833 at six theaters. It gross was $71,000 ($137,000 over the four-day weekend, averaging $22,833). At three locations, from Fri-Sun. Wim Wenders' Pina averaged $20,767 ($62,000 total), while Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, the Bosnian War drama In the Land of Blood and Honey, averaged $6,300 ($18,900 total).

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart/The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn photo: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment

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Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Breaking Dawn
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Breaking Dawn

The no. 7 movie this Christmas weekend at the domestic box office will surely be Steven Spielberg's War Horse, which, as mentioned in part 1 of this three-part box office article, is expected to gross close to $7 million on opening day – today.

In addition to its four-legged star(s), War Horse features Jeremy Irvine, two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson, Thor's Tom Hiddleston, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell, David Kross, Celine Buckens, Patrick Kennedy, Robert Emms, and Eddie Marsan.

Sunday's other wide release, The Darkest Hour, an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, isn't expected to make much of a splash at the box office despite showings at 2,324 locations. In fact, there's a good chance it won't even land among the top ten. Directed by former art director Chris Gorak (Minority Report, Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), The Darkest Hour stars Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, and Rachael Taylor.

The Stephen Daldry-directed Extremely Cloud and Incredibly Close, despite the presence of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, should perform way better in limited release. However, at only six theaters, it's impossible for it to crack the top ten.

So, rounding out the top ten movies this Christmas weekend should be Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve with an estimated $3 million (down 59 percent), Sarah Smith/James McAvoy's animated feature Arthur Christmas with $2.7 million (down 24 percent, domestic total: $44.2 million), and Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, with $2.1 million (down 50 percent, domestic total: $270.9m) as per studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

Now, if Breaking Dawn does indeed remain among the top ten this weekend, that'll mark a Twilight movie first. David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Chris Weisz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight all remained on the top-ten chart for five weekends. Breaking Dawn is now on its sixth weekend out.

However, bear in mind that Breaking Dawn's position among the top ten isn't assured. In addition to the unlikely but not impossible The Darkest Hour threat – coincidentally a Summit Entertainment release – right on Breaking Dawn's heels are Martin Scorsese's Hugo (with $2.02m) and Amy Adams-Jason Segel's The Muppets (with $2m). If, say, Summit's estimates are a little too high, that could mean Breaking Dawn has followed the path of its predecessors: five top-ten strikes, and they're out. Weekend box office actuals will be released on Monday.

It's also important to note that even if Breaking Dawn remains among the top ten one more weekend, that doesn't mean it has sturdier legs than its predecessors. Instead, that'll be a reflection of the overall weakness of the latest Hollywood releases. For comparison's sake: on Christmas weekend 2009 (Christmas fell on a Friday), New Moon was down only 31 percent from the previous weekend despite the loss of 1,442 locations; it earned $3.04 million. And Breaking Dawn will end its North American run $15-$20 million behind both Eclipse and New Moon.

The all-star omnibus comedy-drama New Year's Eve features Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, among others.

In addition to Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner, 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.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn photo: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment

Dec. 24

Daniel Craig, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Trailing Brad Bird/Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked was David Fincher's remake of Niels Arden Oplev's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara – replacing Michael Nyqvist (featured in Ghost Protocol) and Noomi Rapace (featured in A Game of Shadows) – the American remake pulled in an estimated $4.6 million on Friday, Dec. 23, as per early, rough estimates found at both The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.com.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is expected to earn $12.3 million over the three-day weekend, which is about $2 million more than the original earned in the United States, where most people suffer nervous breakdowns whenever they have to read subtitles. Now, does it sound impressive that the American remake is earning more on a weekend than the Swedish original earned throughout its run? Well, maybe. Considerably less impressive is that the $90 million-budgeted David Fincher movie will reach only about $20 million after five days (and one third, as it actually opened on Tuesday evening).

In addition to Craig, who hasn't been much of a draw (Cowboys & Aliens, Dream House) when not playing James Bond, and Golden Globe nominee Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkhoff, Geraldine James, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Ulf Friberg, Donald Sumpter, and Tony Way.

At no. 5, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin is way underperforming in North America – except in French-speaking Quebec, where it has done quite well. Tintin brought in an estimated $3.7 million on Friday and is expected to earn less than $9.5 million by Christmas evening. That would bring the motion-capture animated feature's domestic total to about $17.5 million (a not inconsiderable chunk of it in Quebec, where Tintin has already grossed more than $3.2 million).

Co-produced by Peter Jackson, The Adventures of Tintin features Jamie Bell as Tintin, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Mission: Impossible IV's Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo photo: Baldur Bragason / Columbia TriStar

Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, We Bought a Zoo, Patrick Fugit
Patrick Fugit, Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, We Bought a Zoo

Despite the presence of Matt Damon, one of the most likable actors around, and former Woody Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, on Friday, Dec. 23, the kiddie-oriented We Bought a Zoo brought in a mere $3 million, landing at no. 6 on the North American box office chart according to early, rough estimates found at both The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.com. Directed by Cameron Crowe, who has been luckier with Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky), and distributed by 20th Century Fox, We Bought a Zoo is expected to gross less than $8 million at 3,117 locations over the three-day weekend.

Memories of the tragic, bloody slaughter of dozens of wild animals in Ohio a few weeks ago – the animals had been part of a private zoo – are likely not the reason for We Bought a Zoo's poor opening. But hefty movie-ticket prices, year-end expenses, and the weak U.S. economy just might. A family of four could easily end up spending over $100 at the movies these days. Not many can afford that luxury. Or perhaps it's just that live animals that don't talk are less interesting than chipmunks that do.

We Bought a Zoo, Crowe's first narrative feature since the Orlando Bloom/Kirsten Dunst/Susan Sarandon box office flop Elizabethtown back in 2005, has a so-so 65 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. The film's screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada), had a major critical and box office flop a few weeks ago, the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy I Don't Know How She Does It, which earned less than $10 million in North America.

In addition to Damon and Johansson, the We Bought a Zoo cast includes Angus Macfadyen, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Colin Ford, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones.

Rounding out the top movies on Friday were Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve with an estimated $1.1 million, Sarah Smith/James McAvoy's Arthur Christmas with $1 million, Amy Adams/Jason Segel's The Muppets with almost $1 million, and Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 with nearly $650k. Unless it gets unseated by The Sitter, Breaking Dawn will likely remain among North America's top ten movies throughout the Christmas weekend – its sixth. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner star.

Comparing Breaking Dawn to the three previous Twilight movies: David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Chris Weisz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight remained on the top-ten chart for five weekends. Will Breaking Dawn beat that three-way tie/record?

But wait, there's also an offering from New Regency and Summit Entertainment – Breaking Dawn's distributor – coming out on Christmas Day: The Darkest Hour, an apocalyptic sci-fi thriller ideal for this time of year. Directed by former art director Chris Gorak (Minority Report, Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), and starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, and Rachael Taylor, The Darkest Hour hasn't been screened for critics. Chances are it won't usurp Breaking Dawn's spot among the top ten. [Addendum: But Steven Spielberg's War Horse at 2,376 locations just might. Forgot about that one last night. In all likelihood, Breaking Dawn's only chance to stay on the top-ten chart is if it manages to beat The Muppets and/or Arthur Christmas. That's not impossible, but at this stage it doesn't seem too likely.]

The all-star omnibus comedy-drama New Year's Eve stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, and others.

In addition to Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner, 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.

Matt Damon/Scarlett Johansson/We Bought a Zoo picture: Neal Preston / 20th Century Fox.

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Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Trailing Brad Bird/Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol was David Fincher's remake of Niels Arden Oplev's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara replacing Michael Nyqvist (featured in Ghost Protocol) and Noomi Rapace (featured in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows). The Swedish-set American remake earned a good – though hardly outstanding – $5.06 million at 2,914 locations on Wednesday, Dec. 21, in North America, as per Box Office Mojo.

The thriller's per-theater average was $1,738 – or about $850 less than Ghost Protocol's at 3,448 sites. Admittedly, the Tom Cruise actioner has the advantage of IMAX ticket-price surcharges. (All things being equal – including the fact that both Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt and Rooney Mara's Lisbeth Salander walk around hooded – the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be.)

In addition to Craig and Golden Globe nominee Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo cast also includes Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkhoff, Geraldine James, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Ulf Friberg, Donald Sumpter, and Tony Way.

Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows added $4.28 million at no. 3 on Wednesday, thus finally passing the $50 million mark in North America. Box-office pundits had been expecting the Sherlock Holmes sequel would have passed that mark last Saturday or Sunday. A Game of Shadows' current domestic cume is $54 million.

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

Mike Mitchell's animated feature Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, floated back up on Wednesday, as kids are now out of school and must have been pestering their parents to take them to see the talking chipmunks. Chip-Wrecked earned $3.5 million at no. 4, totaling $32.97 million after six days. Back on Christmas 2009, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel earned $40.6 million in its first three days, even surpassing James Cameron's Avatar on its first day out.

The latest Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, which cost approximately $80 million, features the voices and/or bodies of Jason Lee, Justin Long, Anna Faris, David Cross, Amy Poehler, Christina Applegate, and Matthew Gray Gubler.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo photo: Baldur Bragason / Columbia TriStar

Dec. 22

Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Ghost Protocol

Tom Cruise remains the only bright light at the North American box office as 2011 comes to a close. According to early, rough estimates found at both The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.com, apart from Cruise/Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, every mid-to-late December wide release is performing somewhere between “disappointingly” and “poorly.” Among those are: Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, David Fincher/Rooney Mara/Daniel Craig's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mike Mitchell's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin, and newcomer We Bought a Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe, and starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson.

It's true that Christmas is generally a relatively “soft” box office holiday, but this year chances are it'll be softer than usual. Back in 2005, when Christmas Day also fell on a Sunday, Peter Jackson/Naomi Watts' King Kong, Andrew Adamson'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. This year's top three movies – Ghost Protocol, A Game of Shadows, and Chip-Wrecked – are expected to bring in $58.9 million, of which more than half are Ghost Protocol grosses.

On its eighth day out – and third day in wide release – Ghost Protocol easily topped the chart on Friday, with an estimated $9.5 million. It's expected to gross up to $30 million by Sunday and $37 million by Monday evening.

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.

Friday's no. 2 movie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, earned an estimated $6.5m-7 million. The Sherlock Holmes sequel, still way behind the original, is expected to collect about $16.5 million over the three-day weekend.

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.

At no. 3, Mike Mitchell's animated feature Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked, floated back up some more on Friday, raking in an estimated $5.4 million for a three-day weekend total of $12.2 million. Nonetheless, Chip-Wrecked is still trailing Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel by a wide margin: approx. $42.5 million vs. $111.99 million (on their eighth day out).

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

[Continues on next page. See link below.]

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

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Tom Cruise, Ethan Hunt, Mission Impossible IV
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Following a series of disappointments and/or downright flops at the North American box office in the last several weeks, Tom Cruise has arrived (via Dubai) to save the day. Reports affirming the demise of Cruise's stardom were apparently grossly exaggerated, as Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is going to become a major global box office hit.

Following a tremendous opening at 425 IMAX screen this past weekend, which boasted a $30,083 per-theater average, Ghost Protocol easily topped the U.S. and Canada box office on Wednesday, Dec. 21, collecting $8.92 million after expanding to 3,448 locations. Its per-theater average was $2,587, well ahead of newcomer The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's $1,738, as per figures found at Box Office Mojo.

Considering that the latest Mission: Impossible movie had already blown off some steam over the weekend, that Thursday isn't a holiday, and that people this week have been busy doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, that's a remarkably solid take. Most analysts had been predicting $6 million tops on Wednesday.

For comparison's sake: Back in late May 2000 – a few years before Blu-ray technology, and before DVDs and VOD had become as commonplace as today – on opening day (pre-Memorial Day Wednesday) Mission: Impossible II grossed $12.51 million (approx. $18.5 million today) at 3,653 theaters, averaging $3,426 (approx. $5,000 today) per site. The Mission: Impossible sequel went on to cume at $215.4 million in North America and $330.97 million internationally, for a worldwide grand total of $546.38 million.

After six days, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol has earned $26.01 million in North America. Additionally, Cruise's latest has raked in $95.21 million overseas. (Cruise will definitely help the North American box office, but its lasting saviors, as mentioned before on this site, are to be found in China, Russia, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Brazil, etc.) Ghost Protocol's current worldwide take is $121.27 million.

The first live-action feature directed by Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), the Ghost Protocol cast also features Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist (of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Simon Pegg, Vladimir Nashkov, Léa Seydoux, and Anil Kapoor.

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

Andy Serkis, Captain Haddock, The Adventures of Tintin
Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock, The Adventures of Tintin

With Tom Cruise performing impossible stunts in Brad Bird's live-action Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Tintin's motion-captured stunts in Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn may look a tad less compelling. At least in English-speaking North America.

Whereas The Adventures of Tintin has grossed $239 million overseas, in the U.S. and Canada the adventure tale featuring the intrepid Belgian hero opened with a disappointing $2.3 million on Wednesday, Dec. 21, according to figures found at Box Office Mojo. (Tintin had already earned about $3.2 million in Quebec, where it opened on Dec. 9.) Tintin's top foreign market is France, where it has pulled in $53m; it's currently the fourth biggest 2011 release in that country, after local box office hits The Intouchables and Nothing to Declare, and David Yates/Daniel Radcliffe/Ralph Fiennes' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Co-produced by Peter Jackson, The Adventures of Tintin features Jamie Bell as Tintin, Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost.

At no. 6, Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve brought in $1.05 million. The all-star omnibus comedy-drama stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Hilary Swank, and others.

At no. 7, Sarah Smith/James McAvoy's Arthur Christmas drew $667,000, while Amy Adams/Jason Segel's The Muppets added $586,000 at no. 8. They were followed by Jonah Hill's The Sitter with $553,000 at no. 9.

At no. 10, Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is the only movie among the top ten to have been out for more than 30 days. Starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, Breaking Dawn 1 raked in $515,000. Total to date: $268.19 million.

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.

The Adventures of Tintin picture: Paramount Pictures.

Dec. 21

Breaking Dawn movie, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Isle Esme
Breaking Dawn movie: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart on Isle Esme

It's the holiday season, filled with joy and happiness and kinky vampire sex. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, starring Robert Pattinson as the lovestruck vampire Edward Cullen, Kristen Stewart as the vampire-impregnated human Bella Swan Cullen, and Taylor Lautner as the vampire-phobic werewolf Jacob Black, passed the $650 million mark at the worldwide box office last weekend after earning $8.7 million overseas and $4.19 million in North America. The latest Twilight movie is now well on its way to the $700 million mark.

Breaking Dawn 1 has collected an estimated $391.4 million internationally up until Sunday, December 18, in addition to $266.97 million in the United States and Canada up until Monday, December 19, for a grand total of $658.37 million. Considering that Breaking Dawn has yet to open in mid-size Twilight markets such as Japan and Hong Kong, and that the Christmas and New Year holidays are just around the corner, it seems perfectly possible -though not guaranteed – that the fourth installment in the Twilight Saga movie series will reach the $700 million mark worldwide.

Chris Weitz' The Twilight Saga: New Moon cumed at $709 million in early 2010, while David Slade's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse finished its run with $698 million in mid-October 2010. Catherine Hardwicke's Twilight, which stars only Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson (Taylor Lautner's character is introduced in a supporting role), totaled $392.41 million in early 2009. Overseas, New Moon reached $413.2 million, while Eclipse cumed at $397.95 million. It's clear that Breaking Dawn will earn more abroad than Eclipse; in fact, it may even surpass New Moon as well. Now, what may prevent Breaking Dawn from reaching a worldwide Twilight box office record is the lethargic North American market.

After 32 days, Breaking Dawn has earned the aforementioned $266.97 million in the US and Canada. That's quite impressive, but also quite a bit less than New Moon's $275.56 million during that same period in the fall of 2009 and Eclipse's $287 million in the summer of 2010. If adjusted for inflation, the gap is even wider.

Chiefly for that reason, whether or not Breaking Dawn will manage to surpass the global box office take of New Moon remains unclear. There's a good chance that it'll at least surpass Eclipse's total, though even that isn't guaranteed. In Japan and Hong Kong, New Moon and Eclipse raked in each around $9 million; Breaking Dawn will probably add that much to its take as well. Those two territories alone should catapult its overseas total above that of Eclipse, leaving Breaking Dawn's cume a stone's throw from New Moon's. (Unfortunately for Summit Entertainment, the Twilight movies haven't been shown in China [apart from Hong Kong], which allows in only about 20 foreign blockbusters per year. China is currently one of the biggest foreign markets for Hollywood movies.)

Something else to take into consideration: When it comes to finding out which Twilight movie has actually sold the most tickets, things get iffy. Inflation is partly to blame, but the chief variant here is the dramatic effect currency fluctuations can have on a film's gross when converted to US dollars. Smaller dollar-based grosses don't necessarily mean fewer ticket sales overseas – but merely the effects of a stronger US currency. Or vice-versa.

Having recently surpassed Kung Fu Panda 2, among 2011's releases Breaking Dawn will finish its international theatrical run behind David Yates/Daniel Radcliffe/Emma Watson/Ralph Fiennes' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Michael Bay/Shia LaBeouf/Rosie Huntington-Whiteley/Josh Duhamel's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and Rob Marshall/Johnny Depp/Penélope Cruz's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Each of those three movies have brought in more than $1 billion overseas.

Directed by Dreamgirls, Kinsey, and Gods and Monsters' Bill Condon, and adapted by Melissa Rosenberg from Stephenie Meyer's bestseller, Breaking Dawn - Part 1 also features 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.

Breaking Dawn picture: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment

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18 Comments to 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol': Tom Cruise Savior?

  1. zac

    @GAR

    I wasn't lauding MI4. I was stating a fact.

    But even if I *had* been lauding MI4, there's nothing contradictory in lauding that film and then ridiculing those who insist the North American box office is down because of too many sequels.

  2. GAR

    “In fact, by next weekend the fourth installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise should surpass the inflation-adjusted box-office take of the third one. Once again, this is proof positive that North American moviegoers are very much tired of sequels and of watching the very same characters over and over again.”

    Contradictory much? You laude MI4 in anticipation of it soon surpassing MI3 BO, then you say it's proof that North American moviegoers are tired of sequels and watching the very same characters? *cue Twilight Zone theme*

  3. destiny

    no i love you guy cool and awsome llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  4. destiny

    cool and awsome

  5. California

    Gabi, that's why I love the Twilight books and movies…no cursing, no alcohol, no gratuitus violence, no kinky sex, a lot of love and my delight in looking at the lead characters in the films. I was really turned off by the book TGWTDT and had no desire to read #2 and #3 in the series. Can't imagine why it stayed at the top of the bestsellers list for such a long time. Give me The Twilight Saga any day.

  6. gabi

    I like BD more and more..after I sat through some real nasty anal Rape in TGWTDT, I needed some LOVE . The birthing scene is nothing to the brutality of Finchers Movie

  7. California

    Breaking Dawn would have done much better if they hadn't taken it out of so many movie houses. I couldn't find a single theatre in West Los Angeles where it was playing, which was a shame because I wanted to see it again and couldn't.

  8. sidsbowl

    Zoo's domestic cume is already $42 million. It should hit at least $60 (at least) with no problem. Don't forget the Cinemascore.

  9. George

    HAS NO NEED TO PUT THE NAME OF THIS THREE GUYS IN THE SAME HEADLINE; And still less with the word Surge.
    SERIOUSLY, ONE OF THEM IS A FLOP AT THE BOX OFFICE, AND ONLY IS STILL THERE BECAUSE OF ONE HOLIDAY. The Other is slow. Only One of Them was capable of Surge this week. Ahh And Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and Tom Cruise is going well.
    If you would had put Robert Pattinson, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and Tom Cruise and Box Office Surge, I Might agree.

  10. editor

    Went over that article about five times… Unbelievable.
    The year has been corrected. Thank you!

  11. TomH

    “In 2001, Hollywood movies should earn the major studios $10.2 billion at the North American box office. That's down 3.5% from 2010,”

    Um, I think you mean 2011, not 2001. :)

  12. Jill Kennedy

    It's definitely not a problem of want - it's a problem of vision. There is seriously not much that people want to see out there. Hollywood is stuck in a world of playing it safe (under-performing sequels, adaptations from other media) and trying to please the entire world with every movie they make (the 4 quadrant strategy). You can't please everyone - but Hollywood keeps trying and failing. Hollywood is simply out of visionaries. They've all gone to Silicon Valley and the world of tech.

  13. zac

    @GAR,

    “A Game of Shadows” opened at 3,703 theaters. MI4 at 425. True, costlier IMAX theaters, but 425 all the same. MI4 expanded to its current 3,448 theaters only last Wednesday. No wonder “A Game of Shadows” has made more money to date. But not for very much longer.

    As of Tuesday, “A Game of Shadows” was less than $11m ahead of MI4. It'll be way behind MI4 by next Monday. Tuesday's per-theater averages: MI4 $2,788, GoS $1,975. Even taking IMAX into consideration, that's quite a gap.

  14. GAR

    Um, excuse me, but Sherlock Holmes has still made more money domestically than MI4. Why is MI4 touted as the saviour of the box office during this season? The holiday isn't over yet, and so it remains to be seen how everything will turn out. Based on sales so far this week of SH, it should be right about where SH1 was at the end of the 2009 holiday season, and is yet to be released in half as many more countries internationally. I have found the reporting of these films over the past two weeks to be a bit lopsided, first with sheer panic that SH “underperformed” compared to SH1, with no consideration of the timing of the releases.
    So, to recap…….MI4 still behind SH2 in domestic BO. It might catch up this weekend, given that almost 1/3 of it's gross comes from the added IMAX intake. But then again, that remains to be seen, don't it?

  15. editor

    lauralynn,
    Your figures are inaccurate. The three previous “Twilight” movies have grossed about $1.8 billion at the worldwide box office.

  16. emma

    This is a really weak weekend for movies because it includes New Years Eve. The Christmas weekend in 2009 for BD did not include New Years Eve.

  17. lauralynn

    It's true that BDp1 might end it's North American run $20 mil under Eclipse, but if you take international numbers into consideration then you have BDp1 ahead of all three previous Twilight films combined.

    The Twilight Saga franchise, before the release of BDp1 had grossed just over $900mil. That included ticket sales, DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and merchandising. As of this past Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011, BDp1 has made in ticket sales ALONE just under $700mil. The final tallies on BDp1 wont be in till late next year, after the release of BDp2. Only then will they have had time to add the totals of the DVD/ Blu-Ray and other merchandise sold, which will more than likely put the total over the $900mil mark making it the largest grossing film of the franchise.

  18. nikki

    That's why I don't like 3D movies. They make tickets much more expensive so that people frequent less the theatres but instead buy one ticket for a 3D blockbuster.
    Another reason IMO is that many movies come on DVD too short after their release in theatre, many wait to see the movie until its DVD release.

    I don't know for the US but in Europe and especially certain countries like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, also Belgium the financial and economic bad circumstances caused a lack of trust in the system with social uncertitude as a consequence. People know they have to pay more to get less and are spending their money more carefully and justified. The last few months were terrible for Europe and the Eurozone compared to the first months of this year. It shocked people and opened their eyes for the catastrophe that's looking around the corner.
    Horeca, clothing industries and also cultural activities already feel the crisis.
    That's why I think that Breaking Dawn is the most successful movie of the Saga. Perhaps BO won't beat the other 3 movies, but people went 'en masse' to theatres in these changed times. The bank crisis in 2008 didn't impact social life so much, this crisis does.
    Better than compare on a superficial way BO numbers, I think it's important to have a broad view on the social backgrounds that change almost from month to month.
    From that POV, Breaking Dawn was extremely successful, wether critics like it or not.