Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows did enough to top the box office.
It didn't do enough to top Tom Cruise.
Cruise's fourth Mission: Impossible movie, the Brad Bird-retrofitted Ghost Protocol, which opened in limited release on 425 screens, most of them IMAX, easily delivered the weekend's biggest bang.
Ghost Protocol's fantastic per-screen average of nearly $31,000 translated into a $13 million Friday-Sunday take, enough to outearn films playing on thousands more screens, including the fizzled New Year's Eve, and to take third place in the standings.
A Game of Shadows, meanwhile, which flooded more than 3,700 locations, looks like it earned a big $40 million—until its gross is stacked next to the $62.3 million that the first Sherlock Holmes opened to in 2009.
Sequel fatigue, or whatever it is that's ailing Hollywood this ho-hum holiday season, also plagued Alvin & the Chipmunks.
Chipwrecked, the third installment in the squirrel saga, came away with $23.5 million—a whopping $25 million less than The Squeakquel debuted to two years ago. And, yes, Chipwrecked played at a whole lot more theaters than Ghost Protocol, and even a handful more than Game of Shadows.
The film's next test is Wednesday, when it moves onto 3,000-plus screens, and takes on a couple of other heavy-hitters, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin and David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Elsewhere, there was no such thing as a Golden Globes bounce. All the top nominees, including The Artist and The Descendants, were down versus last weekend.
Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill dropped out of the Top 10 after five weekends and $70.5 million domestically. The movie brings an end to Sandler's $100 million-grossing comedy streak, which had dated back to 2002's Mr. Deeds.
Here's a complete look at the weekend's top movies, as compiled from the studios' Friday-Sunday domestic estimates and BoxOffice.com's reporting: