LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Moviegoers shook off economic gloom and gave Hollywood a gift over the U.S. holiday weekend, sending comedy "Four Christmases" to the top of box office charts and boosting ticket sales nearly 4 percent from last year, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
"Four Christmases," in which Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn play a couple who learn about love during unexpected Christmas visits to their divorced parents, earned an estimated $46.7 million in five days and $31.7 million for three days ending on Sunday, according to its distributor Warner Bros.
"In tough times, people are looking for comic relief and that's what we gave them," said Dan Fellman, head of domestic distribution for Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros.
Teen vampire romance "Twilight," last weekend's No. 1 movie, and animated family film "Bolt" battled for the second position depending on whether box office watchers looked at five-day or three-day totals.
"Twilight" landed at No. 2 with $39.5 million starting on Wednesday and encompassing a five-day Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, which is one of the busiest moviegoing periods of the year. "Bolt" was just behind at $36 million.
But in a typical three-day weekend starting Friday, "Bolt" surged into the No. 2 spot with $26.6 million in ticket sales, slightly ahead of "Twilight" with $26.4 million.
Final figures will be issued on Monday. "Twilight" was released by privately-held Summit Entertainment LLC and "Bolt" by the movie studio division of The Walt Disney Co..
Ticket sales for all films over the five-day weekend rose 3.7 percent to $236 million from $227.6 million over the same holiday last year, said box office tracker Media By Numbers.
Epic romance "Australia," starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, made its debut in the No. 5 spot with a five-day total of $20 million and a three-day figure of $14.8 million, said distributor Twentieth Century Fox, a unit of News Corp
Chris Aronson, Fox's senior vice president of domestic distribution, called the U.S. opening "fantastic" and said sales exceeded studio forecasts by about 20 percent.
Among other new entries, Lionsgate's action-packed "Transporter 3" landed at No. 7 with a five-day tally of $18.5 million and a three-day total of $12.3 million.
James Bond film "Quantum of Solace," was No. 4 with overall holiday sales of $28.1 million, boosting its cumulative total to $142 million for distributor Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp. The movie was co-produced by Columbia and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Another holdover, animated "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," was No. 6 with five-day sales of $19.6 million lifting its gross domestic box office to $159.5 million. It was produced by DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc.
Finally, Oscar hopeful "Milk," about slain gay activist Harvey Milk, saw a strong start in only 36 theaters with an average of about $52,000 per theater for five days and a total of $1.87 million. By contrast, No. 1 "Four Christmases" posted a theater average of about $14,000 in more than 3,300 venues.
"Milk" was released by Focus Features, a unit of the NBC Universal media division of General Electric
Editing by Cynthia Osterman