By debuting the film in IMAX first, Paramount correctly assured itself that Mission Impossible IV would be the film that everyone was talking about going into the Christmas break, and now it will be the one everyone talks about heading into New Year's and the relatively dead January as well. The film was also a monster overseas, earning $140 million (which is about what the film cost to make, natch), for a robust $218 million worldwide total in just over a week in play. It is a strange thing to refer to a film earning $80 million in 11 days as 'slow but steady', but that is the play here. The film earned far more on Sunday ($13 million) and Monday ($16 million) than it did throughout the last several days of the week, meaning it is indeed earning strong word of mouth and should easily top the next two frames. The Brad Bird action thriller was arguably an experiment in actually platforming a wide-release would-be blockbuster, and so far the results are an unmitigated success. We are sure to see a flurry of 'Tom Cruise is BACK!' articles, but the truth is that he never left. Valkyrie and Knight and Day should never have been expected to do blockbuster numbers (no matter how over budget they were), and Lions For Lambs was a would-be prestige picture. Tom Cruise films have always made money based on the promise that Tom Cruise movies are generally of a certain high quality. In short, if he runs, they will come.
Where the film goes from here is an open question. Sony will tell you that adults will slowly come out of the woodwork over the next 10 days or so, and that could very-well be true. Despite my misgivings about the picture, I would love for their to be a breakout genre franchise that is purely for adults, so I have been rooting for its box office success. But again, this is as clear a case against 'unnecessary remakes' as we've seen in recent years, at a cost of $90 million to remake a film that cost $13 million the first time. And it's yet another strike against Daniel Craig, who has seen one expensive and high-profile project after another flop on his watch in the last three years. A fine actor he may be, but at some point studios will have to realize that he holds about as much drawing power as would-be 007 Clive Owen. Oh wait... my mistake, the relative apparent failure of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is obviously the fault of newcomer Mara Rooney (who is the only thing worth seeing in the film, natch). Because it's always the girl's fault, right? Anyway, point being, this was supposed to be one of the big films of the season, and if not for the film's ill-advised Oscar hopes, it would have absolutely killed in mid-February, such as Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Shutter Island. Aside from perhaps Mara, the film was never going to be an Oscar film, so scheduling it as such may have killed the franchise.
Now we get to Christmas day, where the real sensation of the weekend debuted, as The Darkest Hour shocked America by grossing $20 million in one day and nearly taking the weekend crow... sorry, I can't finish that with a straight face. Summit Entertainment's 3D aliens invade Russia thriller seemed like counter-programming, but it's really just the kind of thing you save for January or anytime when there really isn't anything better to see. The $30 million film earned $5.5 million in two days, and I imagine much of that came from professional critics who had to see the picture on Christmas day due to it being withheld from press. The real news was the $15 million two-day gross of Steven Spielberg's War Horse (review). The would-be Oscar contender and the second of two Spielberg films to open over Christmas weekend (what did YOU do with your holiday weekend?) earned enough in two days to come in seventh over the four-day weekend. War Horse is shaping up to be the family film of choice over the end of the year and, at a cost of just $70 million, should be a pretty big hit for Disney/Dreamworks and yet another feather in the cap of Mr. Spielberg.
For limited debut grosses and holdover box office, go to Mendelson's Memos.
More:War Horse Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible IV Ghost Protocol Christmas Movies Steven Spielberg War Horse Mission Impossible 4
HuffPost Entertainment is your one-stop shop for celebrity news, hilarious late-night bits, industry and awards coverage and more — sent right to your inbox six days a week. Learn more