Box office: Fourth ‘Underworld’ film wakes up at No. 1 on Friday

Audiences welcomed Kate Beckinsale back to the “Underworld” franchise by making the fourth film in the series the top film at the Friday box office. It scared up $9.4 million.

The opening weekend gross for “Underworld: Awakening” is projected to be around $23 million, benefiting from 3D and IMAX showings. It will likely have a bigger opening weekend than both the previous “Underworld” films (Beckinsale sat out “Underworld: Evolution”). 

It also handily beat the No. 2 film; the George Lucas-produced Tuskegee Airmen drama “Red Tails” flew to a better-than-anticipated $6 million on Friday. The Fox-distributed film should earn around $16 million this weekend. 

It was a good day for action films, as Universal’s Mark Wahlberg vehicle “Contraband” picked up another $3.7 million in its second Friday, bringing its domestic gross to a strong $37.6 million. 

Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” reaped the benefits of expanding to 2,600 screens, earning $3.1 million, while Steven Soderbergh’s arty action film “Haywire” rounded out the top five with a disappointing $2.9 million.

After the sterling performance of the 3D re-release of “Lion King” last summer, Disney continues the streak with the stereoscopic version of “Beauty and the Beast” which added another $2.1 million to its domestic gross, now totaling $26.9 million. 

The top ten also included the Dolly Parton-Queen Latifah matchup “Joyful Noise” ($1.6 million) Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” ($1.5 million), “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” ($1.3 million) and, picking up another $1 million, Meryl Streep’s “The Iron Lady.”

Look for complete weekend estimates tomorrow on HitFix.