Box Office Report: 'Contraband,' 'Beauty,' 'Joyful' Off to Solid Start

Contraband Film Still - H 2011

Contraband Film Still - H 2011

Headlining Mark Wahlberg, Universal's action-thriller "Contraband" is leading the box office; Meryl Streep awards contender "The Iron Lady" makes major push.

A trio of new pics hoping to benefit from the four-day Martin Luther King were whipping up good business on Friday, with Contraband pulling ahead to take the No. 1 position.

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale, Universal's Contraband could debut to a pleasing $24 million to $25 million for the four days, according to early projections. That's ahead of expectations.

Contraband, an English-language remake of the 2009 Icelandic film, was produced by Universal and Working Title for a modest $25 million. Baltasar Kormakur -- who starred in the original movie -- makes his feature directorial debut with the update. Relativity Media is a financing partner on Contraband.

Disney's 3D re-release of classic toon Beauty and the Beast took the No. 2 position on Friday, and is now expected to gross $20 million to $22 million over the long weekend. Again, that's more than tracking had suggested (and if family business is especially good on Saturday and Sunday, it could earn even more).

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Beauty and the Beast won't be able to match the $30 million opening posted by the 3D re-release of the The Lion King last year. That's due in part to the fact that Beauty and the Beast appeals more to girls than boys. Still, it's an important test for Disney, which is aggressively mining its library and re-releasing classic titles.

Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment's Joyful Noise, headlining Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton as two competing church choir directors, is expected to gross $16 million to $17 million for the four days.

Joyful Noise was fully financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment, the Warners Bros.-based company that made box office hit The Blind Side. Like many of many Alcon's films, Joyful Noise was made with faith-based audiences in mind. It cost under $30 million to produce.

Elsewhere at the box office, the Weinstein Co.'s awards contender The Iron Lady made a major push on Friday, upping its theater count from five theaters to more than 800. The move appears to be paying off. Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, should gross between $5.5 million and $7 million for the four days.

Paramount's micro-budgeted exorcism pic The Devil Inside, which energized the box office last weekend when opening to a record-breaking $33.7 million, should see a sizable drop-off if other horror films are any indication.