Box Office Preview: Mark Wahlberg Battles Queen Latifah, 'Beast' for MLK Weekend Crown

Joyful Noise Film Still - H 2012

Joyful Noise Film Still - H 2012

"Contraband," "Joyful Noise" and the 3D re-release of "Beauty and the Beast" will compete with holdovers including "Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol" and "The Devil Inside."

Hoping for a boost from the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, three films open nationwide at the domestic box office Friday, kicking off what could be a close contest for the No. 1 spot.

Mark Wahlberg-Kate Beckinsale action thriller Contraband, from Universal, is expected to appeal primarily to older and younger males, while Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment's Joyful Noise, headlining Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton as two competing church choir directors, is targeting faith-based audiences and females.

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Disney's 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast is the family offering, but is unlikely to do the same level of businss that the re-release of The Lion King did last year when opening to nearly $30 million. 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.

Conservative estimates show all three films opening in the $15 million to $18 mllion range over the four-day weekend, but box office observers are awaiting the results of Friday matinee business before projecting which film might take the lead.

Paramount's micro-budgeted excorcism pic The Devil Inside, which energized the box office last weekend when opening to a record-breaking $33.7 million, could see a sharp drop-off, if previous horror films are an indication. Rough estimates show Devil Inside grossing $11 million to $12 million for the four-day weekend, although it could continue overperforming. The film's cume through Wednesday was $37.5 million.

Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol, also from Paramount, could edge out Devil Inside for the four-day weekend. The Christmas tentpole has grossed nearly $174 million to date domestically.

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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.

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.

At the awards box office, Meryl Streep-starred The Iron Lady make a major expansion, upping its theater count from 5 to 802. The Weinstein Co. is timing the expansion to Sunday's Golden Globe ceremony and the announcement of Oscar nominations on Jan. 24.