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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Four Christmases," a holiday comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, led the North American box office for a second weekend on Sunday, while the spotlight shifted to a handful of Oscar hopefuls playing in limited release.
In a traditionally quiet weekend following the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, "Four Christmases" sold about $18.2 million worth of tickets during the three days beginning Friday, taking its 12-day haul to $70.8 million, said distributor Warner Bros. Pictures.
The Time Warner Inc-owned studio expects the film to end up with just over $100 million. Witherspoon and Vaughn play a couple who must divide their holiday among each of their divorced parents. It earned a "Bah, humbug!" from critics.
Only two new films entered the top 10: the action sequel "Punisher: War Zone" at No. 8 with just $4.0 million. It played in almost four times as many theaters as the music biopic "Cadillac Records," which opened at No. 9 with a solid $3.5 million.
Among more-pedigreed releases, "Frost/Nixon" earned a hefty $180,000 from three theaters, one each in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Universal Pictures' fact-based drama about a face-off between British TV interviewer David Frost and former President Richard Nixon will add 20 markets next week.
In its second weekend, Sean Penn's gay-hero saga "Milk" earned $1.7 million. Despite almost tripling its theater count to 99 venues, the Focus Features release was up just 16 percent. Its total stands at $4.1 million. Both Universal and Focus are units of General Electric Co's NBC Universal.
Former chart-topper "Twilight" moved up one place to No. 2 with $13.2 million in its third weekend. Closely held indie studio Summit Entertainment's vampire romance has earned $138.6 million to date.
It swapped places with the Walt Disney Co canine cartoon "Bolt," which dug up $9.7 million, also in its third weekend. Its tally rose to $79.3 million.
The next two movies also reversed rankings. After a disappointing start last weekend, the big-budget epic "Australia" rose one place to No. 4 with $7 million, bringing its 12-day tally to $30.9 million.
The 20th Century Fox period romance, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, reportedly cost upward of $125 million to produce, and is hoping for awards-season attention to boost business. Its 53 percent drop was one of the slightest in the top 10.
"The word of mouth is very positive on this movie. People really want to see it," said Chris Aronson, senior vice president of domestic distribution at the News Corp-owned studio.
The James Bond thriller "Quantum of Solace" slipped one place to No. 5 with $6.6 million, and has earned $151.5 million after 4 weekends. It is about $12 million ahead of where star Daniel Craig's 007 debut "Casino Royale" was at the same point in its run in 2006; that film ended up with $167 million. The films were distributed by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.
Sony also distributed "Cadillac Records," a $12 million movie about Leonard Chess, the founder of the Chicago blues label that bears his name. Adrien Brody plays Chess, and is joined by Beyonce Knowles as Etta James and Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters. Sony said the film skewed to older women. It played in 686 theaters, while the other movies in the top 10 averaged 3,000 theaters each.
"Punisher: War Zone" stars Ray Stevenson in the title role of the Marvel comic book adaptation. Previous Punishers included Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane. The film was released by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham