Box Office Report: Spielberg's 'War Horse' Gallops Out of Gate, 'Mission: Impossible 4' a Blockbuster

Jeremy Irvine as Albert
Andrew Cooper/DreamWorks

Writes THR review Todd McCarthy: "An elegant, elemental, borderline corny boy-and-his-horse story magnified in significance by its battleground backdrop, 'War Horse' possesses a simplicity that is both its greatest strength and an ultimate liability."

Moviegoing surges on Christmas day, box office revenues up 8 percent over last year after three miserable weekends at the multiplex.

Paramount's Tom Cruise starrer Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol ruled the Christmas box office with a four-day holiday gross of $46.2 million, bringing it's worldwide total to a stellar $218.6 million in just over a week in release.

The film, the fourth in the espionage franchise, has now taken in $78.6 million domestically and $140 million overseas. At those levels, Ghost Protocol has a shot at earning $200 million in North America and $400 million overseas -- easily a franchise best and eclipsing the $546.4 million earned by Mission: Impossible II.

Co-financed by Skydance Productions, Ghost Protocol cost $145 million to produce and was directed by Brad Bird in his first live-action pic (he's previously only done animation). The film received an A- CinemaScore, with 65 percent of the audience over the age of 25. Males made up 61 percent of those buying tickets.

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Ghost Protocol's success is a boost for Cruise, whose star status had been tarnished in North America. It's also a boost for IMAX, where the movie debuted in sneaks on Dec. 16. IMAX theaters account for roughly 30 percent of the film's domestic gross.

The big headline on Christmas day itself was Steven Spielberg's War Horse, which debuted to a stellar $7.5 million to come in No. 3 on Sunday behind Ghost Protocol and Warner Bros.' Sherlock Holmes--A Game of Shadows.

Disney, which is distributing the DreamWorks film, estimates that War Horse will gross another $7.5 million on Monday--a national holiday--for a two-day cume of $15 million.

"We're ecstatic. We expect to be the family film of choice going forward," said Disney senior vice president of distribution Dave Hollis, noting that War Horse received an A- CinemaScore.

Warner Bros.' awards contender and limited release Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close also debuted on Christmas day in six theaters, grossing a projected $136,000 on Sunday and Monday for a strong location average of $22,667.

Also at the specialty box office, awards darling The Artist expanded nicely, grossing $1.4 milion from 167 locations for a theater average of $8,395 and cume of $2.9 million. Among other award contenders, Focus Features' Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy continued to dominate, grossing $1.2 million as it upped its theater count from 16 to 55 for a location average of $22,003, the best of any film after Extremely Loud. The pic's cume is $2.3 million.

Angelina Jolie's Bosnian war pic In the Land of Blood and Honey debuted to solid numbers, grossing $27,827 from three theaters for an average $9,276.

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With 2012 fast approaching, Hollywood is now resigned to the fact that it probably won't be able to close the gap in domestic box office revenues, even as international grosses surge. One veteran studio executive believes domestic revenues will come in at $10.1 billion, a 3 percent dip from 2010.

However, Christmas weekend brought much-needed relief, with domestic revenues up 8 percent for the four-day weekend (Friday through Monday). Across the board, films saw enormous jumps from Christmas Eve to Christmas day as moviegoers flocked to the multiplex after opening presents, giving studios hope that the week ahead will be prosperous, with kids out of school and many people off of work.

"You essentially are looking at eight days now of consecutive holidays. It's the busiest week of the year," Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore said.

Paramount is virtually assured of ending 2011 No. 1 in marketshare, both domestically and internationally. Overseas, the studio's films will have collected north of $3 billion in ticket sales. It's the first time any studio has jumped the $3 billion mark.

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One film struggling over Christmas weekend was Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo, which opened on Friday. Starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, the film came in No. 6 for the four-day weekend with a tepid cume of $15.6 million. Fox is hopeful that the all-audience movie will pick up the pace on Monday and through next week, when moviegoing should spike.

We Bought a Zoo, which received a glowing A CinemaScore, saw better numbers on Christmas Day, and was up a whopping 139 percent from Christmas Eve, the second best of any film after Game of Shadows (141 percent)

Fox executive vice president of distribution Chris Aronson said Crowe's film should have a great week, since the Christmas-New Year's stretch is especially good to family friendly titles, particularly once Christmas day is over.

"Rumors of the demise of the North American box office have been exaggerated," Aronson said.

Holding at No. 2 over the four-day weekend was Game of Shadows, grossing $31.8 million for an 11-day domestic cume of $90.6 million. The sequel -- re-teaming filmmaker Guy Ritchie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law --continues to lag behind the original pic but is gaining momentum.

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Game of Shadows grossed $22.3 million from 25 markets at the foreign box office over the weekend, bringing its international total to $46.1 million and worldwide haul of $136.7 million.

Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked continued to pick up steam as well, coming in No. 3 for the four-day weekend in grossing $20 million for a domestic cume of $56.9 million. As with Game of Shadows, Chipwrecked opened well below expectations last weekend. Overseas, the 3D family film earned $20.1 million from 52 markets over the weekend for an international total of $42.1 million and worldwide total of $99 million.

Sony's adult drama-thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo came in No. 4, grossing $19.4 million for a six-day domestic cume of $27.7 million, slightly less than expected but nonetheless a solid start for the R-rated adult drama. Directed by David Fincher, the English-language adaptation of the blockbuster Swedish novel stars Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Christopher Plummer.

Dragon Tattoo, based on the blockbuster Swedish novel, opened in five Scandavian countries over the weekend, collecting $1.6 million.

"This a good start for a really great movie," Sony president of worldwide domestic distributon Rory Bruer said. "Rooney Mara's character is a role that doesnt't come around that often, and she just killed it. Daniel Craig is great, too."

Steven Spielberg's 3D family film The Adventures of Tintin placed No. 5, grossing $16.1 million over the long weekend for a six-day cume of $24.1 million.

Paramount and Sony, who partnered on Tintin, knew the movie would be a challenge in the U.S., where the cartoon character -- created by Belgian artist Herge -- isn't as well known. Tintin is already an international hit, having grossed nearly $250 million through Monday.

Tintin is on course to gross $100 million domestically and $300 million internationally.

Coming in No. 8 over Christmas weekend was Summit's sci-fi action-thriller The Darkest Hour, which opened to a paltry $3 million on Christmas Day. The pic is predicted to gross $2.5 million on Monday for a two-day cume of $5.5 million. Summit and New Regency partnered on the $30 million film.

For full weekend results, see below.


Domestic Box Office Dec. 23-Dec. 26 (Four Day)

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

1. Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol (2), Paramount/3,448, $46.2 million, $78.6 million

2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2), Warner Bros./3,703, $31.8 million, $90.6 million

3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2), 20th Century Fox/3,683, $20 million, $56.9 million

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (1), Sony/2,914, $19.4 million, $27.7 million (opened 12/20)

5. The Adventures of Tintin (1), Paramount, Sony/3,087, $16.1 million, $24.1 million (opened 12/21)

6. We Bought a Zoo (1), Fox/3,117, $15.6 million (opened 12/23)

7. War Horse (1), DreamWorks/Disney/2,376, $15 million (opened 12/25)

8. The Darkest Hour (1), Summit/2,324, $5.5 million (opened 12/25)

9. New Year's Eve (3), Warner Bros./New Line/2,225, $4.9million, $32.7 million

10. Hugo (5), Paramount/951, $3.3 million, $44.9 million