By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — Moviegoers will have a handful of new films to choose from this weekend, but none will probably reach the heights of Tom Cruise’s latest “Mission: Impossible” sequel.
The fourth installment in Paramount Pictures’ action franchise, “Ghost Protocol” — which expanded its run in theaters nationwide Tuesday night — is expected to beat all other box-office contenders this weekend.
In the five-day period from Wednesday to Christmas Sunday, the movie will probably sell about $45 million worth of tickets, according to those who have seen prerelease audience surveys. The $145 million production, which opened in about 400 Imax and large-format theaters in the U.S. on Dec. 15, has already grossed $25.7 million domestically and $85 million overseas.
Director David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” which opened Tuesday, will probably be runner-up with an estimated $30 million through Sunday. The movie cost about $100 million to produce, said a person close to the production, although a Sony representative insisted the budget was $90 million.
The picture starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig has so far been extremely well received by audiences, who gave it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. “Ghost Protocol” earned an A-minus, as did “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” which is projected to come in third at the box office this weekend.
The Robert Downey Jr. detective sequel had a softer-than-expected opening last weekend but has performed solidly this week and could make about $27 million from Wednesday to Sunday. The film, which cost $125 million to make, has so far grossed $54 million.
“The Adventures of Tintin,” Steven Spielberg’s 3-D animated film based on a popular Belgian comic book series, opened domestically Wednesday and collected a soft $2.3 million. The movie, which cost co-financiers Paramount and Sony $150 million to $170 million, is expected to bring in about $15 million over the five-day period.
The family movie received an A-minus, according to CinemaScore, and Paramount — which is releasing it in the U.S. and Canada — is hopeful that word of mouth will help the film pass the $100 million mark by the end of its domestic run. Meanwhile, the picture is a hit abroad, where it has so far grossed $240 million.
“We Bought a Zoo,” which will hit theaters Friday, is expected get off to a modest start with about $10 million for the weekend. The family drama, which was directed by Cameron Crowe and stars Matt Damon as a widower who purchases a dilapidated zoo, cost 20th Century Fox about $50 million to produce.
Two films will open on Christmas Day: the Spielberg-directed “War Horse” and the horror thriller “The Darkest Hour.” Because Christmas falls on a Sunday this year and many theaters will close early Christmas Eve, weekend results may be weaker than usual.
Despite the schedule, Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution for Disney — which is releasing “War Horse” — said the holiday was still the right date to open the picture made by Spielberg’s DreamWorks.
“We picked Christmas because combined with Spielberg and the brand he represents, it signals this is something that is going to be special,” Hollis said.
The World War I drama is expected to have only $4 million in sales Sunday. But Disney hopes that the film — nominated last week for a best drama picture Golden Globe — will generate positive word of mouth and play well through the award season. Spielberg’s studio spent about $70 million to produce the film, which features a mostly unknown British cast.
“The Darkest Hour” is the least-expensive film to be released over the holidays, with a budget of about $30 million. The Summit Entertainment and New Regency co-production is expected to also gross the least of any film through Sunday, including about $2 million on its opening day.
In limited release, Warner Bros. will open director Stephen Daldry’s drama “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” on Sunday in a total of six theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto. The movie, based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s popular novel about a child struggling with the death of his father after 9/11, will expand nationwide Jan. 20.