Mark Wahlberg’s “Contraband” leads the weekend in Friday box office

By Sean O’Connell Moviegoers still appear to be finding their legs as 2012 slowly gets into a jogging pace. Perhaps it’s the hangover of holiday options that continue to attract audience members. Or maybe it’s just too darn cold to head out to the multiplexes when good options are waiting in our snuggly living rooms.

Either way, the box office has been getting off to distracted starts as the year figures out its first few steps. Last weekend’s big winner at the box office, “The Devil Inside,” plummeted a staggering 84 percent from one Friday to the next, meaning it likely won’t even make the Top 3 in weekend number two.

Instead, newcomers will fill the top slots at the box. Mark Wahlberg’s “Contraband” should lead the weekend. The drugs and guns thriller, despite some poor reviews, tallied $8.7M in Friday box office, putting it on track for a $22-24M opening weekend if numbers hold.

The animated re-release of “Beauty and the Beast” didn’t do “The Lion King” numbers (that jungle king opened to $8.9M last September), though the $5.6M grabbed by the 3D “Beauty” should help the Oscar-winning feature land in second place when the weekend shakes itself out.

And finally, in third place, looks to be “Joyful Noise,” the musical comedy that pairs unlikely duo Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. “Noise” drummed up an estimated $3.3M on Friday, so while it will be a relatively quiet opening for the niche feature, it did make enough to top the “Devil Inside.”

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