'Protocol,' 'Sherlock' bolster holiday frame

Strong holdover perfs from holiday pics “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” helped end the 2011 domestic B.O. year on a mostly positive note, as overall totals stayed even with 2010’s three-day New Year’s frame. There could even be a slight uptick, based on Sunday estimates.

Overseas weekend B.O. was affected by Saturday theater closings in European markets such as the U.K., where “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” tallied $2.4 million over the three-day weekend.

The Sony-MGM pic has grossed $6.7 million in Blighty since launching Monday; that’s added to the film’s international cume of $12.2 million.

“Ghost Protocol,” which likely again won the top spot overseas, earned a projected $40 million domestically through Monday, while “Sherlock” grossed an estimated $22 million in three days. (Some studios will wait until sometime today to release four-day domestic estimates, as well as overseas earnings.)

Paramount’s fourth “Mission: Impossible” entry, which rose 6% over last weekend’s three-day holiday frame, cumed $134 million domestically as of Sunday, pushing it past Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes” sequel (at $132 million) to become the highest-grossing Stateside holiday release. Par’s estimated cume for “Mission” through Monday is $142.9 million.

New Year’s Eve isn’t usually a busy day at the plexes, but the B.O.’s top 10 pics all saw sizable upticks vs. last weekend’s subdued three-day Christmas play period.

Notably, Warner’s timely “New Year’s Eve” earned $6.7 million in its fourth frame, more than double the film’s three-day Christmas take, though cume is still a modest $46.4 million.

In third place, Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” raked in an estimated $18.3 million from Friday to Sunday, repping a weekend-to-weekend surge of 45%. “Alvin” should cross the $100 million domestic mark by Monday; pic has cumed $81 million internationally.

While there were no new wide releases this weekend, several specialty titles bowed in limited release.

The Weinstein Co.’s “The Iron Lady,” starring Meryl Streep, led the charge, posting a terrific per-screen average of $55,438 from four U.S. locations. Pic bowed Friday, as did Sony Pictures Classics’ Iranian foreign-lingo Oscar submission, “A Separation,” which averaged $22,199 from three playdates in New York and L.A.

Meanwhile, Focus Features’ “Pariah” debuted mid-week at four locations, averaging an estimated $12,424 per screen from Friday to Sunday.

Among the remaining top holdovers, Disney-DreamWorks’ “War Horse,” with $16.9 million in three days, saw a narrow victory over “Dragon Tattoo,” which posted an estimated $16.3 million through Sunday. Sony is predicting that “Tattoo” will add another $5.2 million on Monday, which would put the pic’s Stateside cume at $62.3 million.

In total, “War Horse” has grossed nearly $43 million.

Like “War Horse” and “Alvin,” Fox’s family-skewing pic “We Bought a Zoo” saw one of the frame’s best weekend-to-weekend increases, up 53% for a three-day gross of $14.3 million. “Zoo” has tallied an estimated $41.8 million domestically in two weeks.

Bizzers expected family biz to pick up, starting early last week and running through the weekend, especially with parents and kids home for the holidays.

Rounding out the family pack, Par and Sony’s “The Adventures of Tintin” has struggled to hit its stride domestically, reaching $47.8 million. Overseas B.O. relieves considerable pressure on the toon’s Stateside perf; “Tintin” has collected north of $250 million internationally.

Summit’s soph-sesh sci-fier “The Darkest Hour” saw a domestic bump of 43%, grossing $4.3 million through Sunday. That’s a particularly modest uptick considering the film opened on Christmas Day. Pic has cumed Stateside $13.3 million.

The last-minute domestic box office resurgence over the past few weeks was sorely needed to redeem the year.

Both “Mission: Impossible” and “Sherlock Holmes” have performed well and likely will surpass last year’s best-performing holiday pair, “Tron: Legacy” and “True Grit,” which cumed just north of $170 million each; 2010’s other year-end VIP, “Little Fockers,” topped out at just shy of $150 million domestically — a feasible goal for Fox’s “Alvin.”

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