"Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" stayed at the top of the box office again this holiday weekend, taking in $38.3 million over four days. The fourth of the "Mission: Impossible" movies is on track to become the highest-grossing of the series.
And just like last week, "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" was No. 2 in North America and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," was No. 3. "Sherlock" grossed $21 million over three days and $26.5 million over the four-day holiday weekend, while "Alvin" took $16.4 million over three days and $21 million over all four.
All three movies are in their third week of release.
For the three days, the overall box office is down about 3 percent — but for the four-day period, the box office is up 10 percent compared to last year.
That's reason for optimism, Chris Aronson, Fox's distribution chief, told TheWrap Monday morning.
"There are eight movies that did 10 million or more dollars last week — that's significant," Aronson said. "And seven movies did $26 million or more. … All of these films are going to continue to play well into January."
In specialty releases, the Weinstein Company's "Iron Lady" opened to a spectacular $280,409 — a per-location average of $70,102. And "The Descendants," from Fox Searchlight, returned to the top 10 in its seventh week. The Alexander Payne movie has now grossed more than $40 million domestically.
Warner Bros. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," meanwhile, which opens in wide release Jan. 20, grossed $149,000 at six theaters — an average of $24,833 per location over the four days.
The movie's audience increased by 56 percent from New Year's Eve to New Year's Day.
"Mission: Impossible," meanwhile, shows no signs of slowing down. Brad Bird's PG-13 movie, which had a budget estimated at $145 million, is expected to gross more than $600 million worldwide. The first "Mission: Impossible" movie, in 1996, grossed $457.7 million worldwide. The second took $546 million and the third, in 2006, grossed $397.8 million.
"M:I:4" helped propel Paramount to $5.17 billion worldwide — more than any other studio — in 2011.
The other story of the weekend is "War Horse," DreamWorks' World War I drama, which exceeded expectations.
The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, grossed $14.4 million over three days and $19.2 million over four. That puts it just behind Sony's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" for the three-day period and just ahead of it for the four.
"Dragon," directed by David Fincher, now has grossed a total of $60 million.
Disney, which distributes for DreamWorks, released the PG-13 "War Horse" on Christmas Day. The movie, which cost about $70 million to make, now has grossed $45.5 million.
Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution at Disney, told TheWrap that "War Horse" opened strong among older audiences in the heartland and now is expanding to younger audiences in metropolitan areas of the country.
Disney added 171 theaters this past Friday, bringing the total to 2,547. It plans to expand by another 250 or so theaters on Jan. 6.
The mix at the box office is extremely diverse — from the hard R "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" to the G-rated "Alvin."
While "Alvin" led family films, Fox's PG-rated "We Bought a Zoo, a $50 million movie written and directed by Cameron Crowe and starring Matt Damon, grossed $16.5 million over the four days.
Paramount's "The Adventures of Tintin," however, took in only $15 million for the four days — and $11.4 million over the three.
Spielberg directed the PG-rated movie, which had a budget estimated at $135 million. But the film, based on a Belgian comic book, has not resonated in the U.S. the way it has overseas. Internationally, it has grossed more than $260 million.
Finally, "New Year's Eve," now in its fourth week, got a nice little bounce from the holiday. The PG-13 rated New Line ensemble comedy took $3.4 million over the three-day period and $4.3 million over the four.
With only one movie opening in wide release on Jan. 6 — Paramount's horror film "The Devil Inside," expect this holiday weekend's top films to continue strong performances.
Here's the top 10 for the four-day period (in millions):
"Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol" ($38.3)
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" ($26.5)
"Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" ($21)
"War Horse" ($19.2)
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" ($19)
"We Bought a Zoo" ($16.5)
"The Adventures of Tintin" ($15)
"New Year's Eve" ($7.7)
"The Darkest Hour" ($5.25)
"The Descendants" ($4.25)