Box Office Report: Mark Wahlberg's 'Contraband' Eyes $28.4 Mil Debut, Leads MLK Weekend

Contraband: Movie Still - H 2012
Universal Pictures

The 3D re-release of "Beauty and the Beast" follows with a four-day holiday estimate of $24.7 million; Queen Latifah-Dolly Parton musical comedy "Joyful Noise" expected to hit $14 million; awards contender "The Iron Lady" cracks top 10 chart.

The domestic box office is enjoying solid traffic over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, with Universal's action-thriller Contraband easily taking the lead.

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale, Contraband is expected to gross $28.4 million for the four-day weekend, following a three-day gross of $24.1 million (official four day numbers will be reported Monday morning).

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Contraband and Disney's 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast are both overperforming, helping to boost total box office revenues slightly above last year's levels.

Beauty and the Beast, coming in No. 2, is anticipating a four day gross of $24.7 million. Its three day gross is $18.5 million, already 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.

The weekend's third new entry, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton musical comedy Joyful Noise, should post a four-day gross of $14 million to $14.5 million. Its three day gross is $11.3 million.

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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.

Beauty and the Beast will come much 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.

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 under $30 million to produce.

Joyful Noise is in a close race with Paramount holdover Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol for No. 3.

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Ghost Protocol grossed $11.5 million for the three days, and is expected to post a four-day holiday gross of $14 million. Ghost Protocol's domestic cume through Sunday was $186.7 million.

Paramount's micro-budgeted exorcism pic The Devil Inside is seeing a steep drop off in its second weekend, in line with other horror pics. The pic's three day gross is $7.9 million, a 77 percent decline. The pic, which Paramount acquired for $1 million, opened last weekend to record-breaking numbers and has now earned $46.2 million

At the awards box office, the Weinstein Co.'s The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, is making a major push this weekend, upping its theater count from five to 802. The move is paying off, with Iron Lady cracking the top 10 chart, grossing $5.2 million for the three days for a cume of $6 million.

Domestic Box Office Jan. 13-Jan. 15 (four day numbers for MLK weekend will be reported Monday)

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

1. Contraband (1), Universal/2,863, $24.1 million

2. Beauty and the Beast (3D) (1), Disney/2,625, $18.5 million

3. Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (5), Paramount/3,346, $11.5 million, $186.7 million million

4. Joyful Noise (1), Warner Bros./2,735, $11.3 million

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (5), Warner Bros./3,155, $8.4 million, $170 million

6. The Devil Inside (2), Paramount/2,551, $7.9 million, $46.2 million

7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (4), Sony/2,674, $6.8 million, $88 million

8. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (5), 20th Century Fox/2,849, $5.8 million, $118.8 million

9. War Horse (4), DreamWorks/Disney/2,856, $5.6 million, $65.8 million

10. The Iron Lady (3), Weinstein Co./802, $5.4 million, $6 million