'Avatar' wins boxoffice a seventh time

7:28 AM PST 01/31/2010 by Carl DiOrio, AP

James Cameron's sci-fi epic tops weekend at $30 million

James Cameron's "Avatar" topped the domestic boxoffice for a seventh straight session, ringing up an estimated $30 million while pushing its cumulative boxoffice to within shouting distance of yet another record.

"Titanic" -- which topped weekend rankings 15 times -- registered $600.8 million domestically in its 1997-98 boxoffice cruise for a record that once seemed insurmountable but now is as good as gone. Cameron's latest blockbuster should steam past the disaster pic's domestic tally midweek, after exiting the weekend with $594.5 million in U.S. and Canadian coin.

Outsize foreign grosses for "Avatar" previously pushed the sci-fi epic past the onetime-record of $1.84 billion in worldwide boxoffice registered by "Titanic." Global boxoffice for "Avatar" is now at $2.04 billion and counting.

Elsewhere this weekend, the Warner Bros.-distributed Mel Gibson starrer "Edge of Darkness" fetched $17.1 million in second place to open at the high end of pre-release expectations.

Disney's romantic comedy "When in Rome," starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel, debuted roughly as expected with $12.1 million in third place.

Fox's family comedy "Tooth Fairy" dropped a modest 29% in its sophomore session to $10 million in fourth place and a $26.1 million cume, while Sony Screen Gems' sci-fi actioner "Legion" fell 61% to $6.8 million in sixth place with a 10-day cume of $28.6 million.

CBS Films' drama "Extraordinary Measures" slid from the top rankings on a 57% tumble in its second frame to $2.6 million and a $10.4 million cume.

Among notable expansions, Fox Searchlight's Jeff Bridges starrer "Crazy Heart" added 146 theaters for a total 239 and grossed $2.3 million, or a solid $9,414 per venue. Pic cume reached $6.6 million a week ahead of a scheduled expansion to about 800 locations, with "Crazy Heart" figuring as a near-lock for an Oscar nomination or two when Academy Awards nominations are announced on Tuesday.

Collectively, the session's top 10 finishers grossed $101.7 million, or 6% more than top performers in the comparable weekend last year, according to boxoffice tracker Rentrak. That makes for four year-over-year weekend up-ticks out of five frames marked so far in 2010.

Produced by Gibson's Icon Prods., "Darkness" was screened lightly prior to its release, with Warners foregoing the usual all-media screening for the industry press corps in lieu of a handful of small screenings for film critics.

Helmed by Martin Campbell, the R-rated pic drew opening audiences comprised 53% of males, with 56% of patrons aged 35 or older. Execs were pleased that the pic pulled in solid grosses in all geographical regions.

"The film played really well in all markets," Warners distribution topper Dan Fellman said.

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson ("Ghost Rider"), "Rome" is rated PG-13 and co-stars Angelica Huston, Danny DeVito and Will Arnett. Its opening audiences were comprised 60% of moviegoers attending as couples.

"The film became the choice of couples this weekend, and we did really well," Disney distribution boss Chuck Viane said.

Looking ahead, a pair of female-targeting pics are set to open wide on Friday ahead of the Super Bowl weekend. Lionsgate unspools crime thriller "From Paris With Love," starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, while Sony sends out romantic drama "Dear John," with Channing Tatum ("G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra") and Amanda Seyfried ("Jennifer's Body").
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