"Contraband," Universal's R-rated thriller, tore into movie theaters over the weekend, grossing a strong $28.8 million over four days.
The studio had projected that the movie, which cost $25 million to make, would gross somewhere in the mid- to upper-teens for the four days. Less conservative outside box-office watchers figured it would take $21 million.
The Martin Luther King holiday weekend's other big winners were Disney's 3D re-release of "Beauty and the Beast," which debuted in second place, taking $23.5 million over four days, and the Weinstein Company's "The Iron Lady," a specialty film which sprang into the top 10 in its third week of release.
The biopic of Britain's former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, increased from five locations to 802 this weekend. The movie won Meryl Streep a Golden Globe on Sunday night.
Weinstein's "The Artist," which won three Golden Globes, will expand by 500 screens, to 716, next weekend. The company hopes its next expansion, probably in another week, will bring the silent, black-and-white film to more than 1,000 locations.
"The Artist" took Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy, Best Actor, Musical or Comedy (JeanDujardin) and Best Original Soundtrack.
And Fox Searchlight plans to increase "The Descendants" from 660 locations to more than 1,500 on Jan. 27. "The Descendants" won two Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture — Drama and Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama (George Clooney).