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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Alice in Wonderland" held the golden key to box office receipts, smashing multiple records during its first weekend of worldwide, and easily surpassed the opening stand of all-time champ "Avatar" in North America, distributor Walt Disney Co said on Sunday.
Director Tim Burton's 3D update of the Lewis Carroll tale sold $210.3 million worth of tickets worldwide. Moviegoers in the United States and Canada contributed $116.3 million, the sixth-biggest opening weekend ever, according to research firm Box Office Mojo.
Disney said the better-than-expected North American bow set new records for a film released in both March and the first quarter, traditionally a quiet period for major films.
It is also the best performance by a non-sequel, and established new benchmarks for a 3D and Imax Corp big-screen title. Imax said its screens accounted for less than 2 percent of the total, but 10.5 percent of sales.
Moreover, it is Burton's best debut, surpassing the $68.5 million start for his 2001 remake of "Planet of the Apes."
Pundits had conservatively forecast an opening weekend above $75 million. The last movie to reach that level was "Avatar," which opened at $77 million in December on its way to world domination.
Disney officials declined to predict whether "Alice" would approach the lofty heights of "Avatar," now at $2.6 billion worldwide and counting.
"Alice" also opened in more than 40 foreign countries, earning $94 million and ending the 11-week reign of "Avatar." Top markets included Britain ($16.8 million), Italy ($13.9 million), Russia ($12.3 million), Australia ($9.2 million) and South Korea ($4.9 million). An equivalent comparison with "Avatar" was not immediately available, though James Cameron's hit opened to about twice as much in Russia and South Korea.
Johnny Depp, Burton's frequent collaborator, stars as the Mad Hatter, while Australian actress Mia Wasikowska plays Alice. Burton's girlfriend, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway round out the headliners as the Red Queen and White Queen, respectively.
Reviews were mixed, with critics more enthused by the movie's visual splendor than its narrative essence.
The opening marks a fillip for Disney, whose studio chief was ousted last September after a disappointing spell at the box office. Even with its big Pixar cartoons, Disney spent the last two years at or near the bottom of the big-studio pack in terms of market share. Paradoxically, "Alice" was developed under the previous regime.
Alone among the big studios, Disney does not disclose production budgets, but "Alice" reportedly cost more than $200 million to make.
The only other new release in North America was the cop drama "Brooklyn's Finest," which opened at No. 2 with a solid $13.5 million. The ensemble includes Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes. It was released by Overture Films, a unit of Liberty Media Corp.
Martin Scorsese's thriller "Shutter Island," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, fell to No. 3 with $13.3 million after two weeks at No. 1; its total rose to $95.8 million. The film was released by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.
"Cop Out," a buddy-cop comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, dropped two to No. 4 with $9.1 million in its second weekend. The total stands at $32.4 million. The film was released by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc.
"Avatar" rose one place to No. 5 with $7.7 million in its 12th weekend, taking its total to $720.2 million. The 20th Century Fox film will vie for nine Academy Awards later on Sunday.
The only other Oscar contender in the top 10 was Fox Searchlight's "Crazy Heart," which rose one place to No. 9 with $3.4 million, also in its 12th week. Pundits overwhelmingly favor Jeff Bridges to take home the best actor Oscar for playing a washed-up country star. Both Fox and Fox Searchlight are units of News Corp NWSA.O>.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Paul Simao and Eric Walsh