Box Office Results for December 23, 2011

This weekend, scoring his first number one film in a lead role since his last turn as Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise scaled to the top of the charts over the Christmas session with his latest spy sequel Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which topped the North American box office in its first round of wide release.  The top three spots were all sophomore sequels playing musical chairs from last week’s rankings as the batch of new holiday releases were met with more modest turn-outs settling for slots in the middle of the top ten.  Overall sales were somewhat slow but activity picked up dramatically on Christmas Sunday and studios are hoping that the week ahead will see heavy traffic at multiplexes thanks to the extra time off so many people will have.  Christmas Eve is always a soft moviegoing day due to last-minute holiday distractions and theaters closing early so with it falling on the prime day of Saturday this year, weekend grosses took a beating for every movie.

Expanding nationwide after five days of exclusive play on large-format screens, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol was the top film among moviegoers over Santa weekend grossing an estimated $46.2M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday period.  The fourth installment in the long-running Paramount series averaged $13,402 from 3,448 theaters including IMAX sites, which was very good given the hit all films took on Christmas Eve.  It also picked up a sizable co-producer in Skydance, which was welcomed greatly due to the departure of Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise’s former partner and co-producer of the first three films.  Adding in the earlier limited run in IMAX and other large-format venues, the cume stands at a solid $78.6M with a red hot holiday week still to come when everyday has the potential to behave like a Saturday.  The CinemaScore grade was a good A-.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol will easily beat the $134M domestic final of the last film, 2006’s Mission: Impossible III, and although it is too early to conclude, it also has a shot at challenging the $215.4M of 2000’s Mission: Impossible 2 to become the top-grossing installment of the series.  After the disappointing results five years ago of the last flick, and all the negative publicity Cruise attracted in recent years, most thought this franchise could make a comeback like this.

Overseas it dominated again with an estimated $43M through Sunday lifting the international total to $140M and the global cume to $219M including Monday’s domestic take.

Dropping in its second weekend to second place was the tentpole sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows with an estimated $31.8M over four days raising the 11-day tally to $90.6M for Warner Bros. and Silver.  Even factoring out the Christmas Eve effect, it was a large decline for pricey pic coming off of a softer-than-expected opening as the three-day period fell by half.  All the new choices for grown-ups certainly affected the turn out and teens are not contributing significantly to the grosses.

Fellow sophomore sequel Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked fared a little better dropping from its opening frame to an estimated Friday-to-Monday take of $20M ranking third for the session.  The Fox 2000 and Regency release has taken in $56.9M in 11 days.  With kids now out of school and on break, the studios are expecting stellar daily grosses for the next week.

Columbia and MGM‘s much-hyped The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opened in fourth place with a mediocre start grossing an estimated $19.4M over the four-day holiday weekend and $27.7M since debuting on Tuesday night.  Directed by David Fincher, this film is more of an adaptation of the best-selling novel and less a remake of the 2009 Swedish film of the same name.  It averaged $6,658 from 2,914 locations and like other films is hoping to pick up solid numbers during the holiday week ahead.  Reviews were quite good and the Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara starrer has even scored some notices during awards season, however, the darker and violent subject matter coupled with intense competition for the attention of mature adults led to an underwhelming result over the happy and cheery yuletide holiday.  Still, a domestic final of $100M cannot be ruled out this early in the run as moviegoers continue to catch up on films they are interested in.

Steven Spielberg had a bumpy start to his Christmas double feature offering for North American movie fans.  The animated action adventurer The Adventures of Tintin bowed to just $16.1M this four-day weekend, according to estimates, with $20.8M across the six-day debut period of Wednesday-to-Monday.  The domestic total including the earlier run in Quebec, which began on December 9 is $24.1M.  The 3D Paramount and Columbia release played in 3,087 theaters and averaged $5,215 over four days but with sensational reviews is hoping to find American audiences over time.  The property is not too well-known in the United States, which always posed a challenge.  The Adventures of Tintin opened in Europe and most international territories in October and has banked a stellar $240M+ overseas already making the U.S. not too important to the overall picture.  While the film was marketed towards parents and kids, it’s true audience is more of the true film fans that were waiting to see Spielberg make another adventure film.

Also not fast and furious out of the gate, but well-positioned to gain some ground during the holiday week ahead, was the Matt Damon drama We Bought a Zoo, which opened on Friday and collected an estimated $15.6M over the long weekend from 3,117 locations for a $5,005 average.  The PG-rated film was not based on any brand that would lead to upfront excitement and Damon is not much of a box office draw outside of the action genre so 20th Century Fox has been counting on positive buzz from regular moviegoers to help it sell the film.  Two rounds of sneak previews weeks ago and the two days of nationwide release before Christmas Day were intended to get the feel-good film in front of ordinary people who would then spread strong word-of-mouth over the holidays allowing those recommendations to kick in from December 25 onwards.  An encouraging A grade from CinemaScore indicates that the product is indeed pleasing ticket buyers so We Bought a Zoo numbers will have to be watched in the days and weeks ahead.

Reviews have been mixed and won’t help the cause too much, but working in the film’s favor is that it is the only truly American film for grown-ups among all the major films this holiday week.  Other films feature some combination of foreign settings, characters, and actors.  Studio research showed that the We Bought a Zoo audience was 58% female and 59% 25 and older.

The World War I drama War Horse enjoyed a solid debut on Christmas Sunday with $7.5M on opening day and an estimated $15M for the two-day Sunday-Monday span.  Released by Touchstone, the PG-13 DreamWorks and Reliance film averaged a strong $6,324 over only two days and was able to capitalize on good reviews and the brand name of Steven Spielberg who shot the film while The Adventure of Tintin‘s extensive effects work was being done.  DreamWorks is hoping for a long run with good notices from audiences during the holiday week ahead to help sell it to a wider audience, while banking on nods from the various awards shows coming up, including the most important Academy Awards.

Also opening on Christmas Day was the thriller The Darkest Hour, which bowed to $3M on Sunday and $5.5M over two days.  The Summit and New Regency release averaged only $2,367 across two days from 2,324 playdates and earned a discouraging C+ CinemaScore grade.

Holdovers with modest grosses rounded out the top ten.  The New Line comedy New Year’s Eve tumbled to an estimated $5M giving the ensemble pic a disappointing $34.3M to date.  Fox Searchlight and Ad Hominem‘s awards contender The Descendants grossed an estimated $3.4M boosting the total to $33.7M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $178M over the Friday-to-Monday period, while the Top 20 hauled in roughly $200M thanks to a major rebound on Sunday and Monday.  Last Christmas, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures’ Little Fockers debuted with $34M; and the 2009 Christmas saw 20th Century Fox’s Avatar remain in the top spot with $75.6M.

December 23, 2011 to December 25, 2011 Top Ten



1.   Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

  • $46,210,000
  • Paramount Pictures (Viacom) and Skydance Productions

2.   Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

  • $31,810,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (TimeWarner) and Silver Pictures

3.   Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

  • $20,000,000
  • Fox 2000 Pictures (Fox) and Regency Enterprises

4.   The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

  • $19,400,000
  • Columbia Pictures (Sony) and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (Spyglass)

5.   The Adventures of Tintin

  • $16,100,000
  • Paramount Pictures (Viacom) and Columbia Pictures (Sony)

6.   We Bought a Zoo

  • $15,600,000
  • 20th Century Fox (Fox)

7.   War Horse

  • $15,025,000
  • a Touchstone release (Disney)
  • DreamWorks Pictures (DreamWorks SKG) and Reliance Entertainment

8.   The Darkest Hour

  • $5,500,000
  • a Summit release
  • New Regency Pictures (Regency Enterprises)

9.   New Year’s Eve

  • $4,950,000
  • New Line Cinema (TimeWarner)

10. The Descendants

  • $3,425,000
  • a Fox Searchlight release (Fox)
  • Ad Hominem Enterprises


December 24, 2010 to December 26, 2010 Top Ten



1.   Little Fockers

  • $34,015,000
  • Universal Pictures (NBCUniversal) and Paramount Pictures (Viacom)

2.   True Grit

  • 25,600,000
  • Paramount Pictures (Viacom) and Skydance Productions

3.   Tron: Legacy

4.   The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

5.   Yogi Bear

  • $8,800,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (TimeWarner)

6.   The Fighter

7.   Gulliver’s Travels

  • $7,200,000
  • 20th Century Fox (Fox)

8.   Black Swan

  • $6,600,000
  • Fox Searchlight Pictures (Fox)

9.   Tangled

10. The Tourist

  • $5,700,000
  • a Columbia release (Sony)
  • GK Films


December 25, 2009 to December 27, 2009 Top Ten



1.   Avatar

  • $75,617,000
  • 20th Century Fox (Fox)

2.   Sherlock Holmes

  • $62,390,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (TimeWarner) and Silver Pictures

3.   Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

  • $48,875,000
  • Fox 2000 Pictures (Fox) and Regency Enterprises

4.   It’s Complicated

  • $22,101,000
  • Universal Pictures (NBCUniversal)

5.   The Blind Side

6.   Up in the Air

  • $11,275,000
  • Paramount Pictures (Viacom)

7.   The Princess and the Frog

  • $9,005,000
  • Walt Disney Animation Studios (Disney)

8.   Nine

  • $5,453,000
  • The Weinstein Company and Relativity Media

9.   Did You Hear About the Morgans?

10. Invictus

  • $4,045,000
  • Warner Bros. Pictures (TimeWarner)

~ by Matt Whitfield on December 30, 2011.

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