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Box Office Report: 'M:I 4' Nears $350 Mil; Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse' Gets New Year's Eve Boost

Paramount Pictures/Album/Newscom

Despite a year-end holiday uptick, the 2011 domestic box office was down 3.4 percent from 2010, while attendance tumbled to a 16-year low.

Paramount's Tom Cruise-starrer Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol continued to tower over the competition as moviegoers rang in 2012, grossing $31.3 million for the three-day New Year's weekend for a domestic total of $134.2 million.

Paramount estimates that Ghost Protocol, directed by Brad Bird, will earn another $8.7 million on Monday--a national holiday--for a projected domestic cume of $142.9 million. Overseas, the tentpole has sailed past the $200 million mark, although final figures for the weekend won't be available until Monday. All in, Ghost Protocol will likely earn $600 million globally, a franchise best.

GALLERY: 20 Top Grossing Movies of 2011: THR Year in Review

Steven Spielberg's War Horse made news when moving up the box office chart to No. 4, grossing $16.9 million for the three-day weekend and putting the film's eight-day cume at $43 million. The DreamWorks film, which Disney is distributing, was up more than 22 percent on Saturday, the biggest jump of any film in wide release and indicating the pic is playing well with adults.

At the specialty box office, the Weinstein Co.'s Meryl Streep-starrer The Iron Lady bowed to impressive numbers over the three-day weekend, grossing $221,752 from four theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a screen average of $55,438. Phyllida Lloyd directed the film, about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Sony Pictures Classics also did nicely with Iranian film A Separation, which debuted to $66,598 from three theaters for a screen average of $22,199.

In welcome news for the film business, New Year's Eve weekend was up at least 3 percent over last year. However, the year-end uptick wasn't enough to close the gap in domestic box office revenues. Ticket sales came in at an estimated $10.21 billion in 2011, down 3.4 percent from 2010, or roughly $370 million.

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More grim was the drop in attendance, which tumbled to a 16-year low in 2011. An estimated 1.28 billion people went to the movies, down 4.21 percent from the 1.33 billion who went in 2010.

Ghost Protocol has dominated the global box throughout the year-end holidays, followed by Warner Bros.' Robert Downey Jr.-Jude Law sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and 20th Century Fox's threequel Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

Returning Guy Ritchie to the director's chair, Game of Shadows grossed $22.1 million over the three-day weekend for a domestic cume of $132.1 million. The sequel should end Monday north of $137 million.

Chipwrecked grossed $18.3 million for a domestic cume of $94.6 million. The 3D toon should near $100 million on Monday. Both Game of Shadows and Sherlock have made up ground after muted openings over the Dec. 16-18 weekend.

Sony's R-rated adult drama grossed $16.3 million for the three-days for a domestic total of $57.1 million. The David Fincher-directed film, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, is expected to end Monday just north of $60 million. MGM is a partner on the film.

Fox's second holiday film We Bought a Zoo, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, grossed $14.3 million for a domestic cume of $41.8 million. The movie should be right around $45 million by the end of Monday.

We Bought a Zoo, designed to be an all-audience film, has lagged since its debut on Dec. 23 and found itself bunched in with fellow family-friendly film The Adventures of Tintin, also directed by Spielberg.

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Tintin, opening on Dec. 21, grossed $12 million for the weekend and is projected to end Monday with a domestic cume of $51 million. The film is a runaway success overseas, where it has earned nearly $250 million, pushing the movie's worldwide gross to $300 million.

Zoo cost just under $50 million to produce, while Tintin cost well north of $100 million. War Horse's production budget was north of $70 million.

As with wide releases, Monday should be a strong day for Iron Lady and other awards contenders, including Focus Features' Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which has quietly blossomed into an arthouse hit. The British film, produced by Working Title, grossed $1.2 million over the three-day weekend from 57 locations for a domestic cume of $4 million and screen average of $20,360.

The Weinstein Co.'s awards darling The Artist also posted impressive numbers, grossing $1.4 million from 167 theaters for a cume of $5.1 million and weekend screen average of $8,432.

Warner Bros.' awards entry Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close grossed $106,00 from six theaters for a cume of $308,000 and screen average of $17,667.