Tom Cruise 'Mission: Impossible 4' Easily Tops Box Office

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

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 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

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