Box Office Report: 'Contraband' Leads MLK Weekend With $28.8 Mil, 'Beauty and the Beast' Follows

10:39 AM PST 01/16/2012 by Pamela McClintock
Universal

The four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend is up over last year, bringing relief to the film biz; at the awards box office, Meryl Streep-starrer "The Iron Lady" expands nicely, putting its total at $7.1 million.

Universal's Mark Wahlberg-Kate Beckinsale action-thriller Contraband easily topped the long holiday weekend with a better-than-expected $28.8 million, while Disney's 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast also posted solid numbers in a good sign for the fledgling re-release business.

Beauty and the Beast earned $23.5 million for the four-day weekend, making it the best January opening for an animated film. Hoodwinked! was the previous record-holder, grossing $16.9 million over the four-day MLK weekend in 2006.

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Both films overperformed, helping to boost domestic box office revenues 2 percent to 4 percent over last year.

The weekend's third new entry, Warner Bros.' musical comedy Joyful Noise starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, posted a four-day opening of $13.8 million on the strength of faith-based audiences. Joyful Noise placed No. 4, coming in just behind Paramount holdover Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol, which earned $14.2 million for a domestic total of $189.4 million in its fifth week.

Contraband, an English-language remake of the 2009 Icelandic film, and Joyful Noise each received an A- CinemaScore.

More females than expected turned out for Contraband, making up 49 percent of the audience. Universal and London-based Working Title produced the film for a modest $25 million (Relativity Media is a financing partner). Contraband marks Working Title's best bow ever at the domestic box office, besting the $22.8 million earned by The Interpreter.

"I think the successful opening is due to the combination of a really great marketing campaign that clearly outlined what the film would be, and to the attraction of Mark Wahlberg," Universal president of domestic marketing Nikki Rocco said.

Beauty and the Beast came closer than anticipated to the $30 million debut of The Lion King when re-released in 3D last year. Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested that both Beauty and Contraband would only open in the mid to high teens.

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"This affirms that The Lion King re-release wasn't a one time anomaly," says Disney executive vice president of distribution Dave Hollis, whose studio is banking heavily on re-releases. "The re-issue business, as long as we're careful, is one that can be a meaningful business."

Warners-based Alcon Entertainment fully financed and produced Joyful Noise, starring Parton and Queen Latifah as two competing church choir directors. Like other films from Alcon, including The Blind Side, Joyful Noise was made with faith-based audiences in mind. The movie cost $25 million to produce.

"This was absolutely in the range of what we were looking for," Warners executive vice president Jeff Goldstein said, adding that the film over-indexed in the South, Texas, Florida and Mississippi.

Paramount's micro-budgeted exorcism pic The Devil Inside saw a steep drop in its second weekend, in line with other horror pics. The pic fell 75 percent to an estimated $9.2 million for a domestic cume of $47.5 million. Considering Paramount's micro-budgeted unit Insurge only paid $1 million to acquire the film, Devil Inside is already in the black.

At the awards box office, the Weinstein Co.'s The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, made a major push over the weekend, grossing $6.5 million as it expanded from five to 802 locations. Iron Lady, which should see an added boost in the coming days after Streep's Golden Globes win for best actress, has now cumed $7.1 million. It narrowly lost the No. 10 spot to We Bought a Zoo.

Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend/Domestic Box Office Jan. 13-Jan. 16

Title/Weeks in Release/Studio/Theater Count/Four Day Weekend Total/Cume

1. Contraband (1), Universal/2,863, $28.8 million

2. Beauty and the Beast (3D) (1), Disney/2,625, $23.5 million

3. Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (5), Paramount/3,346, $14.2 million, $189.4 million million

4. Joyful Noise (1), Warner Bros./2,735, $13.8 million

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (5), Warner Bros./3,155, $10.5 million, $172.1 million

6. The Devil Inside (2), Paramount/2,551, $9.2 million, $47.5 million

7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (4), Sony/2,674, $8.1 million, $89.3 million

8. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (5), 20th Century Fox/2,849, $7.8 million, $120.8 million

9. War Horse (4), DreamWorks/Disney/2,856, $7.2 million, $67.3 million

10. We Bought a Zoo (4), Fox/2,909, $6.8 million, $65.3 million.

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