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Movie Projector: 'Sherlock,' 'Alvin' sequels kick off holiday season

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows is expected to win the weekend at the box office
After a slow month at the box office, studio executives are hopeful this weekend will kick the holiday season into high gear with the release of two widely anticipated sequels.

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," the second film about the iconic detective played by Robert Downey Jr., is expected to lead the weekend with around $55 million in domestic ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. It cost about $125 million to make.

The third installment in the animated "Chipmunks" franchise — called "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" — is projected to start with between $35 million and $40 million, though distributor 20th Century Fox is predicting a softer launch of $25 million to $30 million. The movie cost about $80 million to produce.

Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures is debuting "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" in more than 400 large format theaters beginning at 6 Thursday evening before expanding the movie nationwide next week. A six-minute prologue to Warner Bros.' July release "The Dark Knight Rises" will also play before the film in about 60 IMAX theaters, providing an extra incentive for some fans to head to the early "Mission" screenings.

Paramount is also offering its Jason Reitman-directed drama "Young Adult" in 1,000 locations this weekend. Upon its debut, the film starring Charlize Theron opened in eight theaters last weekend and brought in a respectable $310,263.

Hollywood is hopeful that the latest "Sherlock" and "Alvin" films will provide a much-needed boost for the film business, which is coming off the two slowest moviegoing weekends of the year.

"If we're going to have a good holiday, this weekend has to kick it off," acknowledged Dan Fellman, domestic distribution president of Warner Bros., which is releasing "Sherlock." "I always said we were going to play catch-up at Christmas."

While both of the new films playing in wide release will likely have solid debuts, they will probably have smaller opening weekends than their respective predecessors. "Sherlock Holmes," for one, opened to $62.3 million in December 2009 and ultimately raked in an impressive $524 million worldwide. The first "Alvin" started off with $44.3 million in 2007 and collected a global tally of $361.3 million, while 2009's "Squeakquel" ended up with $443.1 million overall.

"I don't think we're going to start off like the others, I'll be straight with you about that," admitted Chris Aronson, Fox's senior vice president of distribution. "I think we're in a depressed marketplace. We need to re-kindle the box office, and that does not happen overnight."

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Photo: Robert Downey Jr. stars in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." Credit: Warner Bros.

 
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