Box Office: Tom Cruise scores again, but moviegoing in 2011 falls

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As 2011 came to a close over the holiday weekend, studio executives didn’t have much to toast.

As most in the industry had expected, ticket sales were down last year compared with 2010. Receipts dropped about 3% to $10.2 billion, according to, while attendance fell to a 16-year low. Approximately 1.28 billion people headed to the multiplex in 2011, a drop of about 4% from last year, when 1.33 billion went to the cinema.


At least Paramount Pictures rang in the new year on a positive note, as its ‘Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol’ took the top spot at the box office for the second consecutive weekend. The fourth installment in the action franchise starring Tom Cruise collected a studio-estimated $38.3 million over the four-day weekend. That lifted the film’s overall domestic gross to $141.2 million, more than the $134 million the third film in the series made over its entire run in theaters in 2006. Now, it seems likely that the picture will match or surpass the tally of the first ‘Mission: Impossible,’ which grossed $181 million in 1996.

It was a strong weekend for moviegoing overall, as children were still out on school vacation and parents were off from work. Most films sold more tickets over the New Year’s holiday than the Christmas holiday, with family films benefiting from the biggest bumps. Overall, the weekend was up 10% compared with the same period in 2010.

After getting off to slow starts in their debuts three weeks ago, both ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ and ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked’ continued to slowly make up ground at the box office. The ‘Sherlock’ sequel took second place with $26.5 million over the long weekend, bringing its total sales to $136.5 million. That’s still far less than the $166 million the first film had grossed in 18 days in 2009. But if the movie continues to play well in the coming weeks, it should come in not substantially below the original movie’s ultimate gross of $209 million.

The third film in the animated ‘Chipmunks’ series is following a similar trajectory, grossing $21 million this past weekend. The movie has so far brought in $97.4 million, compared with the $173 million the second film made during the same period.

It was an especially strong weekend for Steven Spielberg’s ‘War Horse,’ which raked in $19.2 million over the holiday weekend, propelled by older moviegoers. Since opening on Christmas Day, the World War I epic has grossed an impressive $45.2 million.

Less staggering were the figures for David Fincher’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ which collected an underwhelming $19 million. The American take on Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel has now made a so-so $60 million since debuting 13 days ago.

Also struggling in the crowded marketplace was ‘We Bought a Zoo,’ Cameron Crowe’s family film that only grossed $16.5 million this weekend. The movie has now made $44 million. Spielberg’s other film, the animated 3-D ‘The Adventures of Tintin,’ is also not catching on with moviegoers. Although the film is a hit overseas with over $250 million in sales, it grossed $15 million in the U.S. this weekend to bring its domestic total to $50.8 million.

[Updated 1:38 p.m., Jan. 2: The ‘Mission: Impossible’ sequel was also the top movie overseas this weekend, grossing $37 million in 54 foreign countries. The movie is performing well in the Britain, bringing in $12.7 million in its first week of release. Overall, the film has now grossed $225.3 million abroad and is on track to eventually reach around $400 internationally.

Here are the top 10 movies in the U.S. and Canada, based on their four-day grosses with exceptions as noted. Percentage changes are based on three-day grosses. International grosses are through Sunday only.

1.‘Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol’ (Paramount/Skydance): $38.3 million on its third weekend, no change in ticket sales. $37 million overseas in 54 foreign markets. Domestic total: $141.2 million. International total: $225.3 million.

2. ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $26.5 million on its third weekend, up 4%. Domestic total: $136.5 million.

3. ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked’ (Fox): $21 million on its third weekend, up 30%. $24.3 million overseas in 57 foreign markets. Domestic total: $97.4 million. International total: $81.1 million.

4. ‘War Horse’ (Disney/DreamWorks): $19.2 million on its second weekend, up 92%. $4 million overseas in two foreign markets. Domestic total: $45.2 million. International total: $4 million.

5. ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ (Sony/MGM): $19 million on its second weekend, up 16%. $8.3 million overseas in 14 foreign markets. Domestic total: $60 million. International total: $12.2 million.

6. ‘We Bought a Zoo’ (Fox): $16.5 million on its second weekend, up 41%. $5.2 million overseas in 13 foreign markets. Domestic total: $44 million. International total: $7.8 million.

7. ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ (Paramount/Sony): $15 million on its second weekend, up 18%. Domestic total: $50.8 million.

8. ‘New Year’s Eve’ (Warner Bros.): $7.7 million on its fourth weekend, up 93%. Domestic total: $47.4 million.

9. ‘The Darkest Hour’ (Summit/New Regency): $5.3 million on its second weekend, up 43%. $3.4 million overseas in 16 foreign markets. Domestic total: $14.2 million. International total: $8.3 million. 10. ‘The Descendants’ (Fox Searchlight): $4.3 million on its seventh weekend, up 64%. Domestic total: $40.3 million.]


Solid start, fast fade for movies

Movie ticket sales booming in China

Movie projector: ‘Mission: Impossible’ will ring in 2012 at No. 1

-- Amy Kaufman