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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Western "True Grit" wrangled the top spot at North American box offices over the weekend, beating last week's champ "Little Fockers" in a typically slow period for movie theaters after the New Year's holiday.
The remake of the 1969 John Wayne movie about a teenage girl who hires a drunken U.S. marshal to search for her dead daddy's killer, took in $15 million for the three days ended on Sunday, according to studio estimates.
Total ticket sales for "True Grit" now stand at more than $110 million in three weekends, which could help its chances as it competes for Oscars, the world's top film honors whose nominations will be handed out later this month. Oscar voters typically like to see solid ticket sales for nominated movies.
"Little Fockers," a comedy with no awards ambition but a heavyweight cast including Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand and Ben Stiller, slipped to No. 2 after two weeks atop box office charts. Its total ticket sales now stand at $124 million.
The only new, wide-release movie, fantasy "Season of the Witch" starring Nicolas Cage, landed in theaters with a thud, earning poor reviews, a low $10.7 million in ticket sales and only the No. 3 spot on box office charts.
Generally speaking, January is a slow month for movies as people stay home after weeks of holiday shopping, and the month's first weekend held true to that notion.
The top 12 films in U.S. and Canadian theaters took in just over $100 million compared with $148 million on the same weekend one year ago when mega-hit "Avatar" was still raking in cash at theaters, according to Hollywood.com Box Office.
Rounding out the top five movies were sci-fi fantasy "Tron: Legacy" with $9.8 million to land at No. 4, and just behind was ballet drama, "Black Swan," which like "True Grit" hopes to compete for Oscars in Hollywood's current awards season.
"Black Swan," which tells of a young ballerina discovering herself as a person and a dancer, took in $8.4 million and pushed its total ticket sales to just over $61 million.
Two other movies high on Hollywood's Oscar-watch list also continued solid runs. At No. 7 this weekend, Mark Wahlberg's "The Fighter" generated $7 million and now has a total $57.8 million. Just behind at No. 8 was "The King's Speech" with $6.8 million and a total $33.3 million.
All three -- "Black Swan," "Fighter" and "King's Speech" -- have played in limited release in major cities until only recently, whereas "True Grit" opened widely in United States, which has helped boost its total ticket sales.
Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow's turn as a singer in "Country Strong" expanded from its limited run to wide release across the country, but only generated $7.3 million to land at No. 6 on box office charts.
"True Grit" and "The Fighter" are distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. "Little Fockers" is distributed by Universal Pictures, a division of General Electric's NBC Universal media division, and "Season of the Witch" is released by privately held Relativity Media.
"Tron: Legacy" is released by Walt Disney Pictures, a unit of Walt Disney Co; "Black Swan" by Fox Searchlight, a unit of the 20th Century Fox film division of News Corp; "Country Strong" by Screen Gems, a unit of the Sony Pictures Entertainment media wing of Sony Corp and "The King's Speech" by privately held The Weinstein Co.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Eric Beech