After the domestic box office's worst weekend since September 2008, the picture could be brighter entering this weekend, thanks to two strong showings Thursday night.
Paramount's Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol opened with $1.1 million at midnight showings Thursday, despite playing on just 425 locations, 300 of them IMAX.
The other big opener, Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows (Warner Bros.), opened with $1.25 million at 1,650 midnight shows.
The Robert Downey Jr. movie expands to 3,703 locations in the U.S. and Canada on Friday. It is expected to take in as much as $60 million in its opening weekend.
Ironically, Paramount's M:I4 may have gotten a boost from Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight Rises. In select IMAX theaters, the Tom Cruise film was preceded by the prologue of Christopher Nolan's final installment in the Batman series.
The last Mission movie grossed $1.1 million on more than 2,000 screens at midnight showings on its opening night. There is a premium surcharge on IMAX movies.
The fourth installment in the Tom Cruise action franchise goes wide December 21.
In addition to M:I4 and Sherlock Holmes 2, another sequel opens this weekend: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked hits 3,723 theaters Friday. Its studio, Fox, has conservative estimates in the mid-to-high $20 million range, although it could gross up to $30 million over its first three days.