After a slow start to Christmas weekend on Friday, the box office in general picked up very nicely on Sunday.

‘Mission: Impossible 4’ Leads Holiday Weekend; ‘War Horse’ Stronger than Expected

on December 26, 2011 by Daniel Garris

Paramount's Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol led Christmas weekend with an estimated four-day first place finish of $46.21 million. The action sequel starring Tom Cruise is performing on the higher end of its lofty expectations at a time where many other wide releases are performing both below expectations and previous standards for high profile December releases. For the three-day frame, Ghost Protocol grossed an estimated $29.50 million.

On the positive side of things, Ghost Protocol and the rest of the marketplace in general built up major momentum on Christmas Day and should continue to do so today, as the week between the Christmas and New Year's holidays is traditionally very strong at the box office. Today's grosses are expected to be especially strong as a result of Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year. Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol has now grossed an estimated $78.65 million through eleven days of release (the first 4 & 1/2 of which were in limited release).

Another bright spot this weekend proved to be War Horse. The Steven Spielberg directed DreamWorks film being distributed by Disney grossed an estimated $15.03 million from just two days of wide release in 2,324 locations. War Horse grossed an estimated $7.51 million on Christmas Day alone. Online signals had been fairly week for the film before its release, but War Horse was ultimately able to exceed expectations this weekend, as the film was likely able to drawn in a large number of older and less frequent moviegoers who traditionally turn out during the holiday season. Thanks to skewing older, awards season buzz and its two-day launch, War Horse has an excellent chance of holding up very well throughout the month on January.

After a softer than expected start last weekend, Warner's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was able to hold its own this weekend with an estimated four-day second place take of $31.81 million. The anticipated sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. fell 20 percent from last weekend's three-day debut and has now grossed an estimated $90.56 million in eleven days. For the three-day frame, A Game of Shadows grossed an estimated $20.26 million thanks to a stronger than estimated Christmas Day performance. The film is currently running 36 percent behind the pace of 2009's Sherlock Holmes, but should start to shrink the percentage gap some between the two in the coming days.

Sony's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opened in fourth place with an estimated four-day take of $19.4 million. The six-day total for the David Fincher directed remake stands at $27.7 million. Over the three-day frame, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo grossed an estimated $12.75 million. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had been widely expected to be stronger out of the gate this weekend, but the film's opening week performance was still respectable, especially if it can hold up well going forward. It also remains a real possibility that moviegoers who weren't in the mood for a film with darker themes at Christmas will now be more in the mood for the film with the holiday behind us.

Opening in fifth place was Paramount's The Adventures of Tintin with an estimated $16.10 million over the four-day frame. The motion capture computer animated film from Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson clearly hasn't been able to match its international strength in its first few days of domestic release. The better than expected start of Spielberg's War Horse certainty didn't help matters for Tintin this weekend.  For the three-day frame, The Adventures of Tintin grossed an estimated $9.71 million  Tintin has grossed an estimated $24.11 million to date (a total which has been strengthened by 12 additional days of exclusive domestic release in Quebec. Like this weekend's other releases, The Adventures of Tintin will hope to hold up extremely well going forward.

Fox's We Bought a Zoo didn't quite live up to its break-out potential and prime Christmas positioning this weekend. The Cameron Crowe directed film starring Matt Damon opened with a so-so estimated $15.6 million to claim sixth place over the four-day weekend. Like Tintin, We Bought a Zoo also seems to have been limited a bit by the better than expected start of War Horse. However, We Bought a Zoo did pick up in a big way on Christmas Day, which is a good sign for the film's holding power going forward. The film grossed an estimated $9.45 million over the three-day frame.

Fellow family film and Fox release Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked placed in third over the four-day frame with an estimated $20.0 million. That was down 14 percent from last weekend's three-day start. The eleven-day total for the family sequel stands at $56.94 million, placing it 36 percent behind the pace of 2007's Alvin and the Chipmunks. The film's three-day gross was an estimated $12.65 million.

Coming as no surprise, The Darkest Hour didn't make much of a box office impact this weekend domestically with an estimated two-day start of $5.5 million. The 3D sci-fi horror film grossed an estimated $3.0 million on Christmas day. The Darkest Hour did perform relatively stronger in Russia, where it grossed $3.3 million. Summit is distributing the film domestically, while Fox is handling the film internationally.

Follow @DanielBOXOFFICE on Twitter for additional box office updates.

Tags: The Darkest Hour, The Adventures of Tintin, The Gilr with the Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

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