Mission Impossible, The Iron Lady

Paramount Pictures, The Weinstein Co.

For a second straight holiday weekend, Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocal led the box office. 

But it was Meryl Streep's The Iron Lady that really ruled. 

Debuting at four theaters, the Streep Oscar vehicle, a biopic of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, averaged a weekend-best $55,000 per screen.

Cruise's Ghost Protocol, meanwhile, continued to do the biggest business, although its Friday-Sunday total of $29.6 million fell below initial estimates. The film is projected to gross $38.3 million for the four-day, Friday-Monday holiday period. 

With a domestic total now of about $141 million, Ghost Protocol, just two wide-release weekends into its run, has already outgrossed the last M:I movie, Mission: Impossible III.

Overall, New Year's weekend did not turn the corner for slumping Hollywood, as Sunday's ticket sales were weaker than estimated. Steven Spielberg's War Horse took the biggest hit, dropping a place in the standings and coming up $2.5 million short of Friday-Sunday projections. The industry on the whole was down nearly 6 percent from last New Year's, Exhibitor Relations figured. 

There were some bright spots: New Year's Eve finally delivered, on its title as well as its all-star cast, with ticket sales double what they were Christmas weekend, and Spielberg's other year-end entry, The Adventures of Tintin, crossed the $300 million mark worldwide (less than 20 percent of that take has come from audiences here).  

Among awards-season hopefuls just getting started, the Iranian film A Separation (about $59,000 at three screens) and Gary Oldman's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ($1.1 million at 57 screens) loomed large, while the Angelina Jolie-helmed Golden Globe nominee In the Land of Blood and Honey ($9,479 at two screens) struggled again.

Well, not everyone can be The Iron Lady. Or Streep.  

Here's a updated look of the top movies, as compiled from the studios' Friday-Sunday domestic totals and Exhibitor Relations stats. Also included are the Friday-Monday estimates:

  1. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, $29.6 million ($38.2 million Friday-Monday)
  2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, $21 million ($26.5 million Friday-Monday)
  3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, $16.4 million ($21 million Friday-Monday)
  4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, $14.8 million ($19 million Friday-Monday)
  5. War Horse, $14.4 million ($19.2 million Friday-Monday)
  6. We Bought a Zoo, $13.2 million ($16.5 million Friday-Monday)
  7. The Adventures of Tintin, $11.4 million ($15 million Friday-Monday)
  8. New Year's Eve, $6.4 million ($7.7 million Friday-Monday)
  9. The Darkest Hour, $4.3 million ($5.3 million Friday-Monday)
  10. The Descendants, $3.4 million ($4.3 million Friday-Monday)

(Originally published Jan. 1, 2012, at 11:53 a.m. PT)

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