'Contraband' tops 'Beauty and the Beast 3D' with $24.1 mil

Sixty nine percent of CinemaScore's participants listed Mark Wahlberg as their reason for buying a ticket for "Contraband."

Story highlights

  • "Contraband" earned an estimated $24.1 million over the standard three-day weekend
  • In second was "Beauty and the Beast 3D" with $18.5 million for the three-day frame
  • "Joyful Noise," drew a smaller congregation with $11.3 million

We're counting on Gaston Wahlberg to lead the way!

In a weekend that saw both the Mark Wahlberg thriller "Contraband" and Disney's 3-D re-release of "Beauty and the Beast" perform better than expected, it was the former that crossed the finish line in first place.

The R-rated "Contraband," which stars Wahlberg as a former smuggler trying to protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, earned an estimated $24.1 million over the standard three-day weekend, and looks to finish the four-day holiday weekend with about $28 million. That's a solid start for the $25 million movie, a remake of the 2008 Icelandic thriller "Reykjavík-Rotterdam." It also represents Wahlberg's strongest solo debut since 2008′s "The Happening." (What? No!)

"Contraband" confirmed Wahlberg's ability to open a movie, as 69 percent of CinemaScore's participants listed the actor as their reason for buying a ticket. It received an overall "A-" from the tracking service's graders, indicating positive word of mouth. But the movie will have to contend with a number of action films in the coming weeks, including "Haywire," "Underworld: Awakening," and "The Grey."

In second was "Beauty and the Beast 3D" with $18.5 million for the three-day frame -- the largest January opening for an animated film (topping 2006′s "Hoodwinked"). Disney spent less than $10 million converting the 1991 classic to 3-D, so this kind of opening more than justifies the studio's decision to re-release the musical. It also bodes well for Disney's future 3-D re-releases: "Finding Nemo" in September, and "Monsters, Inc." and "The Little Mermaid" in 2013. "Beast" should finish the four-day weekend with around $25 million.

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However, despite "Beast's" commendable performance, it's worth pointing out that it fell short of last September's "The Lion King 3D," which debuted to $30.2 million. That could be the result of several factors. For one, "King" was a much bigger hit in its original release, earning $312.9 million versus "Beast's" $145.9 million. Second, "Beast" has been out on 3-D Blu-ray since October, whereas "King" didn't come out on Blu-ray until after it returned to theaters. And "Beast" had a harder time attracting the interest of boys. According to Disney, just 31 percent of "Beast 3D's" audience was male -- compared to 44 percent for "Lion King 3D."

The weekend's third new release, the gospel-singing dramedy "Joyful Noise," drew a smaller congregation with $11.3 million over the three-day frame. The $25 million movie, starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, is on pace for $14 million by Monday night. Those who saw the film loved it, though, as CinemaScore moviegoers handed the picture an "A-" rating. According to the tracking service, 73 percent of the audience was female, and 78 percent was at least 25 years old. A rep for Warner Bros. said the film performed particularly well throughout the South and Midwest.

Among holdovers, "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" dropped a mild 42 percent for $11.5 million. On Saturday it surpassed the original "Mission: Impossible's" $181 million gross to become the action franchise's second-highest grossing film, behind "Mission: Impossible II" with $215.4 million. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" continued to hold up well, too, slipping just 39 percent for $8.4 million, and pushing its cumulative total to $170 million.

One film that did not hang on well was last week's winner, "The Devil Inside." The R-rated horror flick plummeted 77 percent for $7.9 million. That's the largest second-weekend drop for a wide release since 2009′s "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience" -- now there's a double feature for you! It's also the third-worst decline on record for a film playing in at least 2,000 theaters, behind 2003′s "Gigli" and 2009′s "Friday the 13th." But don't feel too bad for "The Devil Inside," as it has already consumed $46.2 million on a $1 million budget.

"The Iron Lady," starring Meryl Streep as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, expanded from five to 802 theaters and earned a respectable $5.4 million, which was just enough for 10th place.

1. Contraband -- $24.1 mil

2. Beauty and the Beast 3D -- $18.5 mil

3. Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol -- $11.5 mil

4. Joyful Noise -- $11.3 mil

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows -- $8.4 mil

See the full article at EW.com.