Sci-fi epic mints $7.5 million; 'Darkness' takes $5.7 million

In its seventh Friday, 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar” continued to fend off new releases at the box office, generating $7.5 million from 3,074 for an estimated domestic cume of $572 million.

The James Cameron sci-fi epic continued to post remarkable holds, dipping just 17% from a week ago. “Avatar” looks to pass “Titanic” as the highest grossing film at the domestic box office some time during this coming week.

Overall business at the B.O. was sleepy — typical for late January. Mel Gibson’s first onscreen appearance in eight years “Edge of Darkness” distributed by Warner Bros. took $5.7 million in second from 3,066 runs. Disney’s Kristen Bell-Josh Duhamel romantic comedy “When in Rome” followed in third with $4.38 million off 2,456.

“Darkness,” produced and financed by GK Films for $60 million, follows Gibson as a Boston homicide detective who uncovers the reasons behind his activist daughter’s death. For an R-rated Gibson action thriller unspooling during the winter season, the first day gross for “Darkness” is just under the actor’s previous winter actioners geared toward male adults: 2002’s “We Were Soldiers” shot down $6.1 million in its opening day and a weekend of $20.2 million while 1999’s “Payback” collected $6.6 million and a three-day of $21.2 million.

“Darkness” was in line with Warner Bros.’ expectations and earned an overall Cinemascore of B+.

“Signs,” an M. Night Shyamalan August 2002 release, continues to be Gibson’s all-time record opener with a first day of $20.9 million and weekend of $60.1 million.

“Rome” initially had an August 7, 2009 release date and Disney moved it out of the busy frame –which wound up being owned by “G.I. Joe” and “Julie and Julia” — into late January.

Those men needing a shoot-em up fix beyond “Darkness” found it in Warner Bros.’s R-rated holdover “The Book of Eli” which grossed $2.48 million in fourth on 3,075, down 50%, with a running domestic take of $68.1 million.

Fox’s Dwayne Johnson family pic “The Tooth Fairy” remained afloat in fifth, dipping just 37% with $2.25 million off 3,345 and an eight-day take of $18.4 million. Last weekend, “Fairy” saw a 90% spike in its Saturday B.O. over its Friday take of $3.5 million.

Sony-Screen Gems angel actioner “Legion” fell 70% in its second Friday with $2.03 million off 2,476 in sixth and an eight day domestic collection of $23.8 million.

Paramount’s “The Lovely Bones” chalked up $1.3 million off 2,638 in seventh, down 48% in its eight Friday, with a running B.O. of $34.6 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes” notched eighth with $1.22 million from 2,250, slipping 38% with a Stateside cume of 194.3 million in its sixth Friday.

Universal’s “It’s Complicated”, which crossed the century mark on Thursday, took ninth with $1.04 million from 2,096, down 40%. The comedy’s domestic B.O. in the midst of its sixth weekend stands at $101.3 million.

Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” also in its sixth Friday, took tenth with $815,000 yesterday, down 42% on 2,526 and a running domestic B.O. of $206.1 million.

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