Box Office: America loves Tom Cruise again as ‘Mission Impossible’ tops weak Friday with $9.7 million

Remember when Tom Cruise’s career was over?  His infamous jumping on Oprah Winfrey’s couch and string of bizarre interviews during the promotion of “Mission Impossible III” back in 2006?  It got so bad Sumner Redstone forced Paramount to kill his longstanding producing deal which found Cruise and his then partner, Paula Wagner, running United Artists for about three seconds.  And now, another example of why you never say never in Hollywood.

Cruise’s fourth “Impossible” film, “Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol,” has ruled the box office since expanding in wide release on Wednesday.  Friday it grossed another $9.7 million for $42.1 million to date. Granted, the box office is subdued because Christmas Eve and Christmas take place on a weekend and Friday became a major travel day, but its a strong sign “Ghost Protocol” should rule moviegoing through the New Year’s holiday.  Moreover, with $102 million already overseas, this should be the biggest global “Mission” since “MI2” made $546 million eleven years ago.  Something suggests it won’t be another five years until a fifth “Mission” is in theaters.

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” was second with another $6.7 million and $65.5 million to date.  The Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reunion will easily pass $100 million, but reaching the originals $209 million domestic seems a tad out of reach. A Monday morning Quarterback session may tip Warner Bros. off that the marketing of the film looked way too similar to the first and not landing a star to play the film’s villain turned out to be a detriment.

Finding a family audience in third was “Alving and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.” The third installment in 20th Century Fox’s usually reliable series found another $5.4 million on Friday and has sucked $42.3 million out of moviegoers so far.  Like “Sherlock,” nowhere near the heights of the last installment, but it should top out domestically at $90 million plus.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” continued its steady debut in fourth with another $4.6 million and $12.9 million so far.  The David Fincher thriller actually had a higher per-screen average than “Chipwrecked,” but is saddled with less showtimes per day because of its 2 hour and 40 minute long running time.  Depending on word of mouth, “Dragon” also looks like an $80-90 million player.  Considering the budget was reported north of $140 million, Sony Pictures will have to hope for better returns overseas.

Fifth place went to Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s motion-captured animated film “The Adventures of Tintin” with $3.5 million and $11.5 million in three days.  While co-financiers Paramount and Sony Pictures were no doubt hoping for a better U.S. run considering the film’s stellar reviews, they’ll have to live with the already $250 million its found overseas where the Herge character is much more well known.

Another disappointment for Fox has to be the debut of “We Bought A Zoo.”  Cameron Crowe’s comeback looks like a misfire with just $3 million on Friday. Fox tried to make the film’s marketing remind viewers of “Marley & Me” and they sneaked it twice, but audiences weren’t compelled enough to make it pop. 

In limited release, “The Artist” jumped to 167 screens and grossed $232,000 or an O.K. $1,389 per screen.  The Oscar favorite has found $1.7 million so far.

Angelina Jolie’s “In the Land of Blood and Honey” had a tepid debut in three theaters.  The foreign language drama made $6,700 in three theaters or just $2,233 per. 

Look for continuing box office updates throughout the holiday weekend on HitFix.