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'Avatar' wins boxoffice for fourth weekend

Cameron's epic pulls in another $48.5 million domestically

Fox's "Avatar" avalanche piled boxoffice higher than any other film for a fourth consecutive weekend, with an estimated $48.5 million tally in the latest frame producing a $429 million domestic cume.

Doubly deep foreign grosses give James Cameron's sci-fi epic a $1.34 billion worldwide cume, the second-highest in history after the filmmaker's "Titanic," which cruised to $1.84 billion in 1997-98. Its domestic total is the seventh-best ever after 24 days of release.

The weekend's three wide releases bowed further down the session rankings.

-- Lionsgate's vampire actioner "Daybreakers," starring Willem Dafoe and Ethan Hawke, rung up $15 million in fourth place.

-- Universal's romantic comedy "Leap Year," starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, debuted roughly as expected with $9.2 million in sixth place.

-- Dimension Films' Michael Cera-toplined comedy "Youth in Revolt" unspooled limply, with $7 million in ninth place.

Among the strongest holdovers, Warner Bros.' Robert Downey Jr. starrer "Sherlock Holmes" finished second in its third outing with $16.6 million and a $165.2 million cume. And Fox's family comedy "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" was third with $16.3 million and a $178.2 million cume since bowing Dec. 23.

Collectively, the session's top 10 grossers during the first boxoffice weekend of 2010 rung up $143.2 million, or 18% more than top performers in the comparable frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

In a limited bow, Freestyle Releasing unspooled the Tim Allen-directed comedy "Crazy on the Outside" with 75 playdates and rung up $75,450, or a thin $1,006 per engagement.

Freestyle's critically well-received, commercially tepid drama "Me and Orson Welles" tread water in 35 locations and grossed $36,68, or $1,048 per site. Cume for the Richard Linklater-helmed drama hit $1 million.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Sony Pictures Classics' Heath Ledger starrer "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" broadened from four bicoastal exclusives to 552 theaters nationwide and fetched $1.7 million, or an acceptable $3,091 per venue. Cume for the Terry Gilliam-directed fantasy climbed to $2.1 million.

SPC's German crime drama "The White Ribbon" added two playdates for a total of five and grossed $50,477, or an encouraging $10,095, with cume of $170,627.

Apparition's period drama "The Young Victoria" added 311 locations for a total of 466 and grossed $1.1 million, or a so-so $2,306 per site. Cume for the Emily Blunt starrer totals $4.5 million ahead of a planned expansion to about 500 theaters Friday.

Fox Searchlight's Jeff Bridges starrer "Crazy Heart" added 21 playdates for a total of 33 and grossed $435,000, or a pleasing $13,182 per engagement. Cume for the country music-filled drama reached $1.2 million a week ahead of its adding another 13 playdates in 10 additional markets next weekend.

Co-written and co-directed by German brothers Michael and Peter Spierig ("Undead"), the R-rated "Daybreakers" attracted audiences skewing 54% male, with 54% of its support from patrons under age 25.

"It came in within our expectations," Lionsgate exec vp distribution David Spitz said of the film's debut. "It's a great way for us to start the New Year."

"Leap Year" cost Uni less than $20 million to acquire from Spyglass Entertainment. The film's opening audiences were 79% female, with 54% of support from moviegoers age 30 or older.

"It opened on the higher end of the pre-weekend expectations and provides a good launch for whatever a PG romantic comedy can do," Uni distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "Female moviegoers always welcome an alternative to the holiday-season films."

"Youth" targeted younger moviegoers. The R-rated pic's opening underperformed expectations, though with just 1,873 playdates, "Youth" never was expected to bow among the weekend's top rankings.

Looking ahead, Friday begins the four-day Martin Luther King holiday frame, an increasingly lucrative boxoffice opportunity for domestic distributors.

Two pics open wide: Lionsgate's Jackie Chan starrer "The Spy Next Door" and Warner Bros.' Denzel Washington-toplined "The Book of Eli." Also next weekend, Paramount is scheduled to expand Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" into wide release after a month of limited engagements.