It wasn't exactly a happy holiday for Hollywood. Sure, an impressive haul for Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol helped push this New Year's weekend's grosses 3 percent higher than last year's. But it wasn't enough to save 2011 as a whole. (The total box-office gross for the year was down 3 percent — or $370 million — from 2010. And movie attendance tumbled to a 16-year low.) Here, a brief guide to the weekend's winners and losers:
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
The fourth installment of the action series starring Tom Cruise as spy Ethan Hunt topped the box office for two straight weekends, and actually improved its haul in its second week, bringing its worldwide grosses to more than $300 million. The flick isn't just a commercial success, either. It's being heralded as "the best action movie of the year," and, says Travis Leamons at Inside Pulse, re-establishes Tom Cruise's status as an A-list box-office draw. His "career has shifted out of cruise control and is firing on all cylinders."
The Iron Lady
Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible may have led the overall box office, but "it was Meryl Streep's Iron Lady that really ruled," says Joal Ryan at E! Online. The Margaret Thatcher biopic, with Streep as the former British prime minister, averaged a weekend-best $55,000 per screen at four theaters in limited release. The film doesn't expand until Jan. 13, but its ticket-selling prospects look potent.
We Bought a Zoo
Director Cameron Crowe's family-friendly film, which stars Matt Damon as a father who attempts to give his struggling family a new start by purchasing a failing zoo, enjoyed a sizable bump in its second week of release, taking in $14.3 million over the New Year's weekend. That's up 53 percent from Christmas weekend, bringing its total to $41.7 million. Zoo "has already outgrossed such Matt Damon star vehicles as The Informant!, Hereafter, and Green Zone," says Leomans. It's also poised to eclipse The Adjustment Bureau's haul, which would make We Bought a Zoo Damon's "biggest non-franchise or ensemble project release since The Talented Mr. Ripley."
Neither of the acclaimed director's two new films lived up to blockbuster expectations. Spielberg's epic weepie War Horse, about a boy's journey to find his beloved horse during World War II, finished the weekend in fourth place with a modest $16.9 million. And it's tough to be positive about Spielberg's second holiday release, the animated Adventures of Tintin, says Nicole Pedersen at Collider. Its $12 million weekend gross was only good for seventh place, "passed up by family audiences in favor of Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 — that's got to hurt."
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The sequel to Guy Ritchie's hit 2009 film, which stars Robert Downey, Jr. as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's annoyingly omniscient detective, finished New Year's weekend with $22.1 million, good for second place and an increase from Christmas weekend. But "nearly every wide release saw their grosses rise [more dramatically] compared to last weekend," says John Young at Entertainment Weekly. The Sherlock sequel's performance is especially disappointing when compared to that of its predecessor. By this point in its release, Sherlock Holmes had amassed $165.2 million. A Game of Shadows has only earned $132.1 million thus far.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
After a surprisingly frail opening weekend, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo increased its box-office gross in its second week. David Fincher's adaptation of Stieg Larsson's hit book was up 28 percent, taking in $16.8 million. Over 12 days, the film has made $57.1 million, which is "decent but somewhat disappointing," says Young, considering the massive hype and the film's $90 million budget. With the planned sequels of the film now looking questionable, Dragon Tattoo "will have to look to the international markets to help move the film into the black," says Brian Fuson at Indie Wire.