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    No Shot, Sherlock—Avatar Rules

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    Sherlock Holmes Warner Bros. Pictures

    For a while there, Sherlock Holmes had James Cameron outwitted. But only for a while.

    Cameron's Avatar ended up the biggest, fattest movie of a big, fat box-office weekend, with an estimated $75 million Friday-Sunday. The Robert Downey Jr.-ized Sherlock Holmes finished second, but didn't settle for second, with a bigger-than-expected $65.3 million.

    Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($50.2 million) and Meryl Streep's It's Complicated ($22.1 million) got in on the record-breaking holiday action as well.

    More box-office highlights, including the debut of Heath Ledger's last film, and a Top 10 farewell to New Moon:

    The Chipmunks sequel edged Avatar on Wednesday; Sherlock Holmes edged Avatar on Friday. Avatar opened up a lead on both movies on Saturday, and is expected to do the same today.

     You know how you know a movie's a hit movie when its second weekend is only down, say, 30 percent from its first weekend? Avatar was down 3 percent. Overall, the movie's already grossed $405 million worldwide. (Titanic comparisons, however, are still not allowed.)

     Sherlock Holmes is Robert Downey Jr.'s biggest opener, sans Iron Man's mask.

    Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is the Chipmunks' biggest opener, no qualifier necessary.

    It's Complicated is Meryl Streep's biggest opener this year, which tells you what kind of year Streep is having: a good one—again.  

     Conventional wisdom says It's Complicated will have a long shelf life, which would behoove the comedy's backers since it cost a reputed $85 million. Sherlock Holmes, by comparison, has already made back more than half of its $90 million budget from its domestic gross alone.

    Not every movie was full of cheer: Did You Hear About the Morgans? (ninth place, $5 million) apparently was still digging out from last weekend's snowstorm; Nine (eighth place, $5.5 million) broke wide, broke into the Top 10, but didn't pack theaters; The Princess and the Frog (seventh place, $8.7 million) got squeezed out by the CGI rodents.

    New Moon ($3 million) departed the Top 10 after a relatively fast five-weekend stay but an indisputably huge $280.9 million domestic take.

     With Christmas going, Jim Carrey's A Christmas Carol ($1.4 million) went, exiting the Top 10 after seven weekends and $136 million. Worldwide, it looks like the $200 million budget-buster was a moneymaker.   

    From Friday through Sunday, Hollywood's movies combined to gross $275 million, a record for a three-day haul, Exhibitor Relations said. Overall, Hollywood will close out 2009 likely having sold $10.5 billion worth of tickets, also a record.

     Heath Ledger went out on top. Again. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was, theater for theater, the weekend's highest-grossing movie, making $129,980 off four screens.   

    Here's a look at the weekend's top-grossing films based on Friday-Sunday estimates as compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

    1. Avatar, $75 million
    2. Sherlock Holmes, $65.4 million
    3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, $50.2 million
    4. It's Complicated, $22.1 million
    5. Up in the Air, $11.8 million
    6. The Blind Side, $11.7 million
    7. The Princess and the Frog, $8.7 million
    8. Nine, $5.5 million 
    9. Did You Hear About the Morgans?, $5 million
    10.  Invictus, $4.4 million

    (Originally published Dec. 27, 2009, at 9:07 a.m. PT)  

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