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(Updates with final box-office numbers.)
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” opened as the top weekend film at U.S. and Canadian theaters, collecting $39.6 million as Hollywood looked to sequels for a final spark to a lackluster 2011.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,” also a sequel, took second place with $23.2 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement. Another follow- on feature, Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” generated $12.8 million playing exclusively at 425 large-screen theaters, including 300 Imax locations.
The movies are among seven major pictures studios are releasing in time for the Christmas holiday. Others scheduled for next weekend include “The Adventures of Tintin,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “War Horse.” Revenue for the top 12 films fell from the year-earlier period, as North American ticket sales for the year remain down 4 percent.
“In general, ticket sales have been down for the last few weeks compared to last year because the movies aren’t as good and exciting and there have been less 3D releases,” said Gitesh Pandya, editor of Boxofficeguru.com in New York.
U.S. cinemas generate about 20 percent of the year’s business between mid-November and New Year’s, according to Hollywood.com.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” the second in the detective series from Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. studio, was expected to generate about $52 million, said Pandya. He forecast $32 million for “Chipmunks.”
Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role in “Holmes” as the cerebral sleuth created by novelist Arthur Conan Doyle. This time, Holmes and his sidekick Dr. John Watson match wits with arch-criminal Moriarty, who plots to create an arms race among European military powers.
Jude Law plays Watson and Jared Harris portrays Moriarty. The first film, released in 2009, had worldwide ticket sales of $524 million, according to Box Office Mojo, another researcher.
“Chipwrecked” is the third film in the series from News Corp.’s Fox studio about the singing chipmunks. The previous films took in $804.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
In the new movie, Alvin and his pals are marooned on a seemingly deserted tropical island. Jason Lee plays the chipmunks’ human manager Dave. The film also features the voices of Justin Long and Amy Poehler.
“Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” is the first new film in the series from Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures since 2006. Three prior installments had $1.4 billion in global sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
‘New Year’s Eve’
In “Ghost Protocol,” the Impossible Mission Force is shut down after members are accused of bombing the Kremlin. Team leader Ethan Hunt, played by Cruise, sets out to clear the group’s name.
The film is scheduled to play exclusively in Imax Corp. and other large-screen venues for five days before opening more widely on Dec. 21. Early Imax releases may help studios build positive buzz about their film before opening widely, said Greg Foster, chairman and president of filmed entertainment at Mississauga, Canada-based Imax.
“‘Mission Impossible’ opening this weekend scored a record for the December-Christmas period,” he said. “This early Imax opening is a first test, but based on this weekend, so far so good.” He said the film had $11 million in sales at 300 Imax locations.
Among returning films, Warner Bros.’ “New Year’s Eve” dropped to fourth place from first with $7.3 million. The film follows the lives of a group of New Yorkers as they celebrate the holiday weekend. An ensemble cast includes Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel and Zac Efron. The director is Garry Marshall, whose similarly structured “Valentine’s Day” took in $216 million globally last year.
Fox’s “The Sitter” fell to fifth place from second with $4.6 million in receipts.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films dropped 13 percent to $110.5 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Domestic box-office receipts this year have declined 4 percent to $9.7 billion. Attendance is down 4.9 percent.
The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Dec. 16 through yesterday.
--With assistance from Dan Hart in Washington. Editors: Sylvia Wier, Anthony Palazzo
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