Box Office Guru Wrapup: Contraband Steals Box Office Crown

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Mark Wahlberg's action-thriller Contraband took control of the box office this weekend, while the latest Disney 3D re-release did relatively well and last weekend's champ crashed and burned in its second go around.

Giving off some good vibrations this weekend was Universal's Contraband, which opened with an estimated $24.1M this weekend from 2,863 playdates, for a per screen average of $8,418. Wahlberg is a surprisingly strong draw at the box office, with all of his wide releases over the last decade opening in the double digits. His box office history reminds me of a poor man's Denzel Washington, just without the accolades. Audiences dug the film as evidenced by its A- grade from Cinemascore.

Second place went to the 3D re-release Beauty and the Beast, which follows last year's huge re-release of The Lion King. Beast opened with $18.5M, according to estimates, for a per screen average of $7,044. It didn't quite reach the heights of The Lion King, which opened last September to $30.2M, but for a 20 year old film, it's still pretty strong, especially when you consider the 3D Blu-ray has been on sale for 3 months already. Beast also now holds the record for highest opening weekend for an animated film in January, taking down Hoodwinked from this weekend in 2006. If there's any company that knows how to milk their products for all they're worth, it's Disney. They've got Finding Nemo ready for 3D later this year.

Tom Cruise's latest impossible mission fell to number three this weekend, with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol taking in $11.5M, according to estimates, a drop of 42% from last weekend. Its total now stands at $186.7M, with the $200M barrier ready to fall.

The musical notes of Joyful Noise opened in fourth place this weekend, with an estimated $11.3M, for a per screen average of a decent $4,148. Starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, the film also received an A- from Cinemascore, meaning that it might have some legs over the next few weeks.

A franchise star arrived in the next spot. Robert Downey, Jr. (star of not one, but two current major franchises) landed in fifth place this week with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows which dipped 39% to an estimated $8.4M, bringing its cume to $170M after five weeks.

And the moment we've been waiting for... last weekend's shocking box office champ The Devil Inside completely collapsed in its second weekend tumbling 76.6% to an estimated $7.9M. The drop was one of the worst in box office history, which isn't surprising considering a) horror films generally are front-loaded and b) the reviews were downright horrible (which still may be too nice). Still, with a total take of $46.2M so far, Paramount is laughing all the way to the bank, and we can expect to see even more of these low budget, found footage films in the future.

Seventh place belonged to Craig, Daniel Craig and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which fell 40% to an estimated $6.8M, bringing its total up to $88M. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked followed in eighth place with an estimated $5.8M, a drop of 39% from last weekend, bringing its cume to $118.8M after five laps. Ninth place belonged to even more animals as the Steven Spielberg-directed War Horse brought in $5.6M, according to estimates, bringing its total up to $65.8M.

Meryl Streep's latest bid for a third Oscar, the Margaret Thatcher political drama The Iron Lady, did well in its nationwide expansion after two weeks of platform release. The Weinstein Co. title grossed an estimated $5.4M from 802 sites (up from 5) averaging a solid $6,716 per theater. It was almost identical to last weekend's expansion of another British political drama Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which debuted in 809 locations for a similar $6,772 average playing to an older upscale crowd.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $105.3M which was down 2% from last year when The Green Hornet opened in the top spot with $33.5M; and down 29% from 2010 when Avatar remained at number one with $42.8M in its fifth frame.

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