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Box Office: 'Contraband' steals No. 1 spot from 'Beauty and the Beast' [Updated]

Contraband was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend

The ugly world of drug smuggling beat out a fairy tale "Beauty" at the box office this weekend, as Mark Wahlberg's "Contraband" was the No. 1 pick at the multiplex.

The action thriller was the most popular film over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday, grossing a solid $28.8 million domestically, according to an estimate from distributor Universal Pictures. Meanwhile, the classic animated tale "Beauty and the Beast," first released in 1991 and now in 3-D, collected a respectable $23.5 million over the long weekend. The faith-based musical "Joyful Noise," the weekend's third debut, trailed with a lackluster $13.8 million.

It was a good weekend at the box office overall, as ticket sales were up 4% this year compared with the same period in 2011.

In "Contraband," a remake of the Icelandic hit "Reykjavik-Rotterdam," Wahlberg stars as a reformed con man who finds himself pulled back into a life of crime. Co-financed by Universal and Relativity Media for about $25 million, the film played to a slightly older crowd this weekend, with 55% of the audience over 30. Those who saw the film liked it, assigning it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The film had a stronger opening than Wahlberg's last film, the 2010 critical hit "The Fighter," which debuted with $12.1 million in wide release and went on to gross a strong $93.6 million in the U.S. and Canada. "Contraband" also got off to a far better start than the actor's last two action films -- 2007's "Shooter" opened to $14.5 million, while 2008's "Max Payne" debuted with $17.6 million. 

Overseas, "Contraband" opened in seven foreign countries including Russia and Singapore and grossed $1.5 million. The film will roll out in an additional 56 international markets over the next four months.

The results for the reissue of "Beauty and the Beast" bode well for Walt Disney Studios, which is planning 3-D re-releases of "Finding Nemo," "Monsters Inc." and "The Little Mermaid" over the next two years. The studio decided to update a handful of titles from its animated catalog after enjoying surprising success re-releasing a 3-D version of "The Lion King" last fall. The jungle tale debuted with a strong $30.2 million last September and ultimately brought in $94.2 million.

“We were hopeful coming off of a huge result with ‘Lion King’ that this wouldn’t be a one-time phenomenon, and it wasn’t,” said Dave Hollis, executive vice president of distribution for Disney, which spent under $10 million to convert “Beauty” to 3-D.

Still, the studio isn't expecting "Beauty" to perform as well as "The Lion King," since the animal story was far more popular than the fairy tale upon its initial release. The domestic take for 1994's "The Lion King" was $422.8 million, compared with "Beauty's" $171.4 million total.

"Joyful Noise" resonated with an older female audience this weekend -- 73% of the crowd were women, and 65% was over the age of 35. The faith-based movie, which stars Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah as two women trying to save their small-town church choir, played especially well in the South. The film sold the most tickets at a theater in Atlanta, and also did brisk business in Dallas and Charlotte, N.C. Those who saw the film liked it, giving it an A- CinemaScore.

Produced by Alcon Entertainment for about $25 million, "Joyful Noise" is being marketed and distributed by Warner Bros. The movie is the latest in a string of soft openings for Latifah, whose last big role was in 2010's "Just Wright," a romantic comedy that flopped with $21.5 million in all. Parton hasn't starred in a major release in nearly two decades, since she starred in a number of commercially successful 1980s films including "Steel Magnolias" and "Nine to Five."

[Updated 11:40 a.m., Jan. 16: After its robust opening last weekend, Paramount's low-budget horror flick "The Devil Inside" saw a major decline in ticket sales this weekend. The film's receipts tumbled a staggering 76% to $9.2 million -- an indication that the movie is suffering from poor word-of-mouth after receiving an ultra-rare F from CinemaScore upon its debut.

Here are the top 10 movies in the U.S. and Canada, based on their four-day grosses. Percentage changes are based on three-day grosses. International grosses are through Sunday only.

1. "Contraband" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $28.8 million. $1.5 million overseas in seven foreign markets.

2. "Beauty and the Beast 3-D" (Disney): Opened to $23.5 million.

3. "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" (Paramount/Skydance): $14.2 million on its fifth weekend, down 41%. $16.8 million overseas in 58 foreign markets. Domestic total: $189.4 million. International total: $320 million.

4. "Joyful Noise" (Warner Bros./Alcon): Opened to $13.8 million. 

5. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $10.5 million on its fifth weekend, down 37%. $27.4 million overseas in 57 foreign markets. Domestic total: $172.1 million. International total: $222 million.

6. "The Devil Inside" (Paramount): $9.2 million on its second weekend, down 76%. Domestic total: $47.5 million.

7. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (Sony/MGM): $8.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 41%. $16.5 million overseas in 44 foreign markets. Domestic total: $89.3 million. International total: $49.7 million.

8. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" (Fox): $7.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 38%. $14.4 million overseas in 64 foreign markets. Domestic total: $120.8 million. International total: $154.1 million.

9. "War Horse" (Disney/DreamWorks): $7.2 million on its fourth weekend, down 32%. $8.5 million overseas in 12 foreign markets. Domestic total: $67.3 million. International total: $17.3 million.

10. "We Bought a Zoo" (Fox): $6.8 million on its fourth weekend, down 33%. $1.5 million overseas in 14 foreign markets. Domestic total: $65.3 million. International total: $16.5 million.]

RELATED:

Busy, busy Mark Wahlberg

Disney plans 3-D re-releases of 'Little Mermaid,' 'Nemo'

Movie Projector: 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Contraband' fight for No. 1

-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Mark Wahlberg stars in "Contraband." Credit: Universal Pictures

 
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