'Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol'

You may be starting the new year with a hangover, but the box office, for once, is lively and robust. 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' easily repeated last week's holiday victory, but the weekend's other holdovers, in a session without any new wide-release competition, also performed strongly. The top 14 movies, and all but three of the top 33 movies, saw their earnings rise over last weekend's takes.
The fourth 'Mission: Impossible' continues to do business like a Tom Cruise movie of old, barreling toward a possible $200 million domestic take. Over the weekend, it lived up to expectations and earned another estimated $31.3 million (up 6 percent from Christmas weekend), for a three-week total of $134.1 million. That edges out the $134.0 million domestic total earned by 'Mission: Impossible III' nearly six years ago. In fact, this is Cruise's first film to pass $100 million domestically since that 2006 installment of the franchise.

Also in line with predictions, 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' finished second, with an estimated $22.1 million, up 9 percent from a week ago. Despite a slower than expected start, it's keeping pace with 'Mission: Impossible,' having earned $132.1 million over the same three weeks.

In third place, 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked' saw a jump in business of 45 percent over last weekend. Kids out of school helped the 'toon earn an estimated $18.3 million over New Year's weekend, for a three-week total of $94.6 million.

'War Horse' saw the week's biggest boost, vaulting 125 percent over last weekend's earnings. Finishing fourth, Steven Spielberg's equestrian drama also made hay out of of family free time and grabbed another estimated $16.9 million. In eight days, the film has earned $43.0 million.

Finishing fifth was 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,' with an estimated take of $16.3 million, up 28 percent from last weekend. Like the three movies above it on the chart, the grim David Fincher thriller seems to be overcoming a slow start, holding up well due to strong word-of-mouth. Its two-weekend total is $57.1 million.

'The Iron Lady'

Among limited-release debuts, 'The Iron Lady' did very well, earning an estimated $222,000 on just for screens, for an outstanding $55,450 per-screen average. Reviews for the movie itself are so-so, but raves are nearly unanimous for Meryl Streep's performance as Margaret Thatcher, which seems destined to earn the actress an unprecedented 17th Oscar nomination. Also doing well were Iranian drama 'A Separation' (an estimated $66,600 on three screens) and African-American lesbian coming-of-age tale 'Pariah' (an estimated $49,700 on four screens).

Overall, box office was up about 30 percent from last weekend. Among the top 30 returning films, only 'The Sitter,' 'Arthur Christmas' and 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' saw declines from last weekend's business. Everything else was up, marking a happy end to an otherwise dismal year at the box office.

'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' - Trailer No. 2

The full top 10:
1. 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' $31.3 million (3,455 screens), $134.1 million total
2. 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,' $22.1 million (3,703), $132.1 million
3. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,' $18.3 million (3,724), $94.6 million
4. 'War Horse,' $16.9 million (2,547), $43.0 million
5. 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,' $16.3 million (2,914), $57.1 million
6. 'We Bought a Zoo,' $14.3 million (3,163), $41.8 million
7. 'The Adventures of Tintin,' $12.0 million (3,087), $47.8 million
8. 'New Year's Eve,' $6.7 million (2,225), $46.4 million
9. 'The Darkest Hour,' $4.3 million (2,327), $13.2 million
10. 'The Descendants,' $3.7 million (758), $39.7 million

[Photos: Paramount ('Mission: Impossible'), The Weinstein Company ('The Iron Lady')]

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categories Movies, Box Office