James Cameron sci-fi pic the fourth highest grosser of all time

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Avatar” reached a worldwide cume of $1.02 billion through Sunday, leading the most lucrative Christmas season in history.

“Avatar” becomes the fourth highest grosser ever, behind James Cameron’s “Titanic” ($1.8 billion), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” ($1.12 billion) and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” ($1.07 billion). “Avatar” should soon eclipse the latter two pics.

Over New Year’s weekend, “Avatar” grossed an estimated $68.3 million from 3,461 runs at the domestic B.O. — the best number ever for a film in its third weekend — for a cume of $352.1 million in its 17th day in release.

Overseas, the 3D sci-fi fantasy added $133.5 million for a foreign cume of $670.2 million in 21 days in release.

Of “Avatar’s” global total, $66.4 million has come from Imax theaters, a record for the large-format exhib.

“Avatar” may have been the mega-grosser, but there were still plenty of presents for other pics to unwrap over the holiday. Domestic B.O. revenues between Dec. 18 and Jan. 3 reached an estimated $985.4 million, up 31% on last year.

Over New Year’s weekend, Warner Bros.’ Robert Downey Jr.-Jude Law topliner “Sherlock Holmes” declined 38% to an estimated $38.4 million from 3,626 runs for a domestic cume of $140.7 million in its first 10 days.

Overseas, “Sherlock” grossed an estimated $37.6 million from 4,600 screens in 33 markets for a foreign cume of $88.3 million and worldwide total of $229 million.

Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” which opened Dec. 23, saw a domestic cume of $157.3 million through Sunday, including an estimated second weekend take of $36.6 million from 3,747.

Overseas, “Squeakquel” earned $32 million from 6,105 playdates in 54 markets for a cume of $99.1 million. Worldwide total is $256.4 million.

Universal’s romantic comedy “It’s Complicated” grossed a frothy $18.7 million in its second sesh from 2,897 for a cume of $59.1 million. The Nancy Meyers-directed pic stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

“It’s Complicated” grossed an estimated $5 million at the international B.O., bringing its foreign cume to $13.8 million and worldwide total to $72.9 million.

Elsewhere at the domestic B.O., Paramount’s George Clooney starrer “Up in the Air” held solidly, grossing an estimated $11.4 million from 1,895 theaters for a domestic cume of $45 million in its second weekend in wide release.

“Up in the Air” was up 1% from the previous frame, the best hold of any film opening or expanding over Christmas week. Par said it will add roughly 400 runs on Friday.

The Weinstein Co.’s musical “Nine” continued to struggle, grossing an estimated $4.3 million from 1,412 runs for a cume of $14 million in its second sesh in wide release.

A spokesperson for the Weinstein Co. refuted reports that the film’s theater count had been reduced, saying the company will continue to fully support the pic.

In other box office highlights, Warners’ “The Blind Side” jumped the $200 million mark over the weekend, grossing an estimated $12.7 million from 2,926 runs for a cume of $209.1 million in its seventh frame. Film was fully financed and produced by Alcon Entertainment.

Among limited releases, Sony Pictures Classics’ Palme d’Or winning “White Ribbon” debuted to a per-location average of $20,439 as it grossed an estimated $61,317 from three runs.

Sony Classics’ “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” scored the best per-theater average of any film over New Year’s weekend. The film grossed an estimated $130,817 from four locations for an average of $32,704 and cume of $348,677 in its second frame.

Paramount’s “The Lovely Bones” picked up, grossing an estimated $64,000 from three locations for an average of $21,667 and cume of $383,000 in its fourth weekend.

Likewise, Fox Searchlight’s Jeff Bridges topliner “Crazy Heart” saw more pleasing results, grossing an estimated $235,554 from 12 runs for a location average of $19,630 and cume of $716,335 in its third weekend.

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