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‘Contraband’ leads MLK weekend B.O.

Four day take for U's pic an estimated $28.8 million

Universal looks to parlay the solid $28.8 million four-day opening last weekend of B.O. winner “Contraband” into a golden domestic run, while Golden Globe winner “The Artist” is also aiming high at the box office in the lead-up to next week’s Oscar nominations.

“Contraband” improved on Sunday’s $24.1 million three-day estimates, with a revised $24.5 million gross from Friday to Sunday.

The higher weekend take is promising news for the pic, especially since it scored a solid A- CinemaScore rating with 78% of auds over 25. Adult auds are typically the biggest boosters of holdover pics.

Likewise, specialty distribs hope adults will catch up with awards fodder in the coming weeks.

The Weinstein Co.’s best musical comedy winner “The Artist,” which grossed $1.5 million over the four-day weekend, broadens wide this weekend to 700 locations; domestic cume is $9.1 million. Release has remained limited, expanded in the pic’s eighth frame to its widest count of 216 engagements.

Drama and actor Globes winner “The Descendants” grossed $2.5 million during the four-day sesh. Fox Searchlight plans to expand “Descendants” from the current 660 locations to more than 1,500 on Jan. 27 after Oscar noms. Stateside cume is $47.5 million.

“Descendants” is Searchlight’s sixth-biggest domestic grosser, behind 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine” ($59.8 million). Both “Descendants” and “The Artist” have done solid business so far and should continue to play well through the Oscars. Neither pic has set a DVD release date.

TWC’s Globes winner for actress in a drama, “The Iron Lady,” expanded to 802 locations, with $6.5 million through Monday. Domestic cume is $7.1 million.

Last weekend on the family front, Disney’s 3D retrofit of “Beauty and the Beast” came in slightly softer than originally estimated, with three-day grosses of $17.7 million — only 4% below Sunday’s projection — and four-day figures at $23.5 million. The Mouse likely overestimated the effect of the holiday weekend.

While specialty fare often sees awards boosts, it’s less clear whether Globes wins could help family films such as “The Adventures of Tintin.” The animated pic Globe winner, which has grossed $68.9 million in four weeks, has struggled to hit its stride with American auds.

Likewise, director winner “Hugo,” with $54 million domestically, is in its eighth week and is down to 545 locations from an original 1,200.

The frame’s third wide opener, Warner Bros.’ “Joyful Noise,” came in line with the studio’s original three-day projections of $11.3 million for a four-day take of $13.8 million. Not surprisingly, “Noise” drew strong responses in the South, driven by a 73% female audience.

Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” meanwhile, earned enough for third place ($14.2 million in four days), edging out “Joyful Noise,” followed by fellow 2011 holiday offering “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” which grossed $10.5 million through Monday. Domestic cume on “Mission” is $189.4 million; on “Sherlock,” $172.1 million.

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