Holiday weekend fuels hope for Hollywood

'Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,' starring Tom Cruise and directed by Brad Bird (above), provided some New Year's weekend cheer as Hollywood managed fair business to spark optimism for 2012.


LOS ANGELES -- Tom Cruise's new mission remains impossible to beat at the box office.

Studio estimates Sunday placed "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" in the No. 1 spot for the second consecutive weekend with $31.3 million. With a $134.1 million domestic total, it's the first $100 million hit with Cruise in the lead role since 2006's "Mission: Impossible III."

The Paramount release led a solid New Year's weekend as Hollywood managed fair business to end a sluggish year on a more promising note for 2012.

Domestic revenues closed out at $10.22 billion for 2011, down 3.4 percent from 2010, according to box-office tracker That was an improvement over's projections a week earlier, when the industry limped through the holidays with underachieving movies.

"This week was a pleasant surprise," said analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "Last week, we were really pretty gloom and doom, but this final push at the end of the year was stronger than expected. It's a good way to head into 2012, with at least a little bit of momentum at the box office."

Movie admissions were down sharply for the second year in a row. Factoring in higher ticket prices, domestic attendance slipped to 1.28 billion in 2011, off 4.2 percent from 2010 admissions and the smallest audiences Hollywood has had since 1995, according to

The industry is looking to an impressive lineup to turn things around in 2012. Big titles include superhero tales "The Dark Knight Rises," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Avengers"; the latest in the animated franchises "Ice Age" and "Madagascar," and "Brave," the new adventure from Pixar; Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones' "Men in Black 3"; Daniel Craig's James Bond film "Skyfall"; Johnny Depp's vampire story "Dark Shadows" ; Ridley Scott's "Prometheus," a cousin to his sci-fi classic "Alien"; and Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first in a two-part prequel to his "Lord of the Rings" films.