North American box office: guess who got a trip to Pandora for Christmas?

Everyone. Avatar continues to kick box office ass:

1. Avatar: $75.6 million (2nd week; drops 3%)
2. Sherlock Holmes: $62.4 million (NEW)
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: $48.9 million (NEW)
4. It’s Complicated: $22.1 million (NEW)
5. The Blind Side: $11.5 million

actual numbers, not estimates
The weekend looked amazing for Avatar when we had only the estimates to go by, but when the actual numbers came in, we learned that the film’s performance on Sunday had been underestimated by more than half a million dollars… which put the film in position to beat out The Dark Knight for the honor of highest-grossing second weekend ever.

As I suspected could happen, however, the actuals saw Alvin’s take drop below $50 million — just a little, but enough to mean this wasn’t the first weekend in which three films broke that milestone. (It’s still the highest-grossing weekend overall, and still the one that sold the most tickets ever — 37.3 million, according to the Los Angeles Times — since detailed records began to be kept in 1985.)

I stop listing drops (or the rare rise) in takings after the fourth week of a film’s release, because with the way Hollywood works these days — frontloading releases to open wide and play big for a few weeks before dropping steeply and quickly disappearing — they hardly matter after a month. But it’s worth noting that over its sixth weekend, The Blind Side was up 15 percent. With a cumulative take after this past weekend of more than $184 million, and with this holiday week sure to be another recordbreaker, it will easily pass the $200 million mark — very likely before the new year begins — making it one of the most popular movies of the year. And with a reported budget of only $29 million, it’s sure to be one of the most profitable as well.

Looks like the Disney renaissance — at least when it comes to old-fashioned musical cartoons — may be over: The Princess and the Frog is fading fast, dropping to No. 7 this week, with takings of only $9 million over a weekend when it might have been expected to do much better. With total takings of just under $64 million, it will not earn back its $105 million budget. It’ll be interesting to see if Disney changes tactics somehow in trying to sell its next musical, 2010’s Rapunzel.

The best per-screen average of the weekend went to Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which took in $31,186 on each of its four screens. Avatar was second — $21,880 at each of 3,456 locations, though that will have been boosted by premium IMAX and 3D ticket prices — followed by Sherlock Holmes ($17,206 at each of 3,626 locations), The Lovely Bones ($14,000 on each of three screens, though the round number suggests that’s still an estimate), and Alvin ($13,210 at each of 3,700 venues).

Next weekend’s box office is going to be very interesting. As the L.A. Times notes:

the coming week should be lucrative even for movies that struggled this weekend. With kids out of school, many people off work and no new films debuting, theaters are expected to be packed through next Sunday.

“Every day this week will be like a Saturday,” said Bert Livingston, senior vice president of domestic distribution for Fox.

Look like the midweek numbers will be as interesting as the weekend’s.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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