"Avatar", Chipmunks lead worldwide box office

Sun Dec 27, 2009 4:47pm EST
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The 3-D extravaganza "Avatar" ruled the worldwide box office for a second weekend on Sunday, while the latest exploits of Alvin and the Chipmunks and Sherlock Holmes helped set a North American sales record.

"Avatar," an eco-friendly morality tale from "Titanic" writer/director James Cameron, earned $220 million in North America and 108 foreign markets, taking its 10-day haul to $617.3 million.

Distributor 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp, said the film was No. 1 everywhere except in India where it followed a local movie. It opens in China on January 2 and Italy on January 15.

British director Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes," starring Robert Downey Jr. as the Victorian sleuth, opened to $91.4 million in North America and 17 foreign markets. The Warner Bros. release opened at No. 2 in the United States and Canada with a better-than-expected $65.4 million.

Family audiences spent $86.7 million on Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," a follow-up to the cartoon characters' 2007 worldwide smash. In North America, the film ranked No. 3 for the weekend with $50.2 million, also exceeding studio forecasts. Thanks to an early start on Wednesday, its tally stands at $77.1 million, taking its worldwide haul to $113.6 million.

Fox said "Alvin" opened in 42 markets, and was No. 2 in at least 20 of them.

SALES RECORD SMASHED

The three films helped set a new weekend sales record in North America, according to tracking firm Hollywood.com Box Office. The top 12 releases grossed $278 million, smashing the mark of $261 million set in July 2008 when "The Dark Knight" was the top film, it said.

The firm also forecast record sales of $10.5 billion this year, up 9 percent from 2008. Even with higher ticket prices, it predicted the number of tickets sold would rise almost 5 percent from last year to 1.4 billion -- the highest tally since 2006.   Continued...