'Avatar' lands at No. 1 for fifth straight week
'Book of Eli' marks Warner's biggest Jan. opener
James Cameron's 3D sci-fi epic "Avatar" became the first film in a decade to top domestic weekend rankings five straight frames, taking in an estimated $54.6 million during the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend.
The rare feat -- the first since Disney's "The Sixth Sense" posted a similar streak in 1999 -- pushed U.S. and Canadian cume on "Avatar" to $505.1 million in a record 32 days. Worldwide boxoffice on the Sam Worthington starrer reached $1.64 billion, while a pair of wins in Sunday's Golden Globes provided fresh fuel in its quest to steam past "Titanic" ($1.84 billion) into the record books.
Elsewhere, Warner Bros.-distributed Denzel Washington starrer "The Book of Eli" opened about as expected with $38 million in second place. Lionsgate's family actioner "The Spy Next Door," starring Jackie Chan, bowed more tepidly with $13 million in fifth place.
Paramount's Peter Jackson-helmed literary adaptation "The Lovely Bones" dug up $20.5 million in third place during its first frame of wide release following a month of exclusive engagements. Lifted by solid support from young females, "Bones" boasts $21 million in cumulative b.o.
Soph-session holdovers "Leap Year" from Universal and "Daybreakers" from Lionsgate grossed $7.1 million and $6.3 million, respectively. Eighth-placed "Leap Year" wound cume to $18.8 million, while "Daybreakers" fell from the top rankings as cume hit $25.5 million.
Dimension Films' youth comedy "Youth in Revolt" fetched $3.7 million from its second frame for an 11-day cume of $12.8 million.
Collectively, the weekend's top 10 grossers rung up $182.7 million, or 1% less than top performers in last year's MLK frame, according to Nielsen EDI.
In a specialty bow, IFC Films unspooled the family drama "Fish Tank" in a pair of New York theaters and grossed an encouraging $30,000 ahead of planned expansions into top-15 markets into February.
Sony Pictures Classics resumed distribution of drama "The Last Station" with two New York playdates and one in L.A., grossing $98,723, or an auspicious $32,908. "Station" bears a cume of $130,813 including brief Academy-qualifying runs in December.
Elsewhere in the specialty market, SPC's German-language drama "The White Ribbon" added seven locations for a total 12 and registered $102,943, or a solid $8,579 per site, with cume of $298,063.
Fox Searchlight's Jeff Bridges starrer "Crazy Heart" added 14 engagements for a total 47 and grossed $492,473, or a pleasing $16,861 per playdate, with a $2.2 million cume.
And the Weinstein Co.'s Colin Firth starrer "A Single Man" added 171 theaters for a total 219 and grossed $1 million, or an acceptable $4,689 per venue, for a $3.5 million cume.
In flying past $500 million on Monday, "Avatar" beat a record set by 2008's "The Dark Knight," which took 45 days to reach the magical milestone. "Titanic" took 98 days.
"It is truly remarkable in light of how much interest remains in this film," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson said. "But we're already where we never dreamed we would be."
Co-directed by Allen and Albert Hughes, "Eli" represents the brothers' first theatrical feature since 2001's "From Hell." Co-starring Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis and Tom Waits, "Eli" was produced and financed by Alcon Entertainment.
"Eli" audiences were comprised 57% of males, with 35% of patrons aged 35 or older.
"This was Warners' biggest January opening in history," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said.
"Eli" also represented the top-grossing, R-rated pic opened during the MLK weekend, and marked Washington's second-best bow after 2007's "American Gangster" ($43.6 million).
Directed by Brian Levant ("Are We There Yet"), "Spy" was wholly financed by Relativity Media with Lionsgate simply distributing. The film's opening audiences skewed 62% female, while parents with kids under age 12 comprised 48% of pic support.
"Families clearly enjoy the film, which bodes well for long-term playability," Lionsgate exec vp David Spitz said.
Looking ahead, three films open wide Friday. CBS Films releases its first title, the drama "Extraordinary Measures"; Fox unspools family comedy "Tooth Fairy"; and Sony sends out sci-fi actioner "Legion."
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