'Sherlock Holmes' opens to $24.9 mil Friday

Detective pic tops 'Avatar,' which remains strong

"Sherlock Holmes" unwrapped the biggest present at the boxoffice Christmas Day, kicking off what's shaping up as a hectic and crowded weekend at the muliplex.

Attracting an estimated $24.9 million for its opening day, Warners Bros.' "Sherlock Holmes," starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, led the pack.

The PG-13 rated movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, bowed in 3,626 locations. Entering its eighth day of release Fox's "Avatar" was close behind. The 3D space tale pulled in another $23.6 million as it easily crossed the $150 million mark.

"Avatar," of course, benefited from premium ticket prices, although it also had to contend with playing on fewer screens -- 3,456 locales -- and has a running time that is more than one half longer that "Sherlock's."

Still, by weekend's end, the two films could be battling it out for the top spot.

Meanwhile, Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which opened on Wednesday when it briefly commanded the top boxoffice slot for that day, settled securely into the third spot on Friday. PG-rated family fare, directed by Betty Thomas, "Alvin" took in $14.3 million for the day in 3,700 locations.

In the process, it appeared to lure the kiddie crowd away from Disney's "The Princess and the Frog," which, as it began its third weekend of wide release, dropped to eighth place for the day as it took in $2 million.

Aiming to lure in older women, Universal's "It's Complicated," bowed in fourth place. Nancy Meyers' R-rated comedy, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, grossed $7.2 million in 2,886 locations. That was in line with a recent Streep vehicle like August's "Julie & Julia," which opened to a first-day gross of $6.5 million and bettered the first-day opening figure of Meyer's 2003 "Something's  Gotta Give," which opened to $5.3 million.

After three weekends in limited distribution, Paramount sent Jason Reitman's award hopeful "Up in the Air" into wide release on Wednesday, and Christmas Day it ranked fifth, collecting $3.7 million for the day.

Warner's uplifting drama, "The Blind Side," beginning its sixth weekend, was nipping at "Up's" heels, though. The Sandra Bullock-starrer, which is also demonstrating some awards potential, was in sixth place, picking up $3.4 million as it crossed the $175 million mark domestically.

The Weinstein Co.'s musical "Nine," which opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend, also broadened out on Christmas Day, moving into 1,412 theaters. But Rob Marshall's PG-13-rated tuner didn't have quite as many moviegoers whistling its tunes. It found itself in seventh place, as it collected $2.1 million.

Rounding out the top 10, Sony's comedy "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" ranked ninth as it began its second weekend with a daily total of 1.6 million.

In the tenth spot, Warner's South African-set "Invictus," directed by Clint Eastwood, pulled in $1.3 million as it entered is third weekend, bringing its cumulative domestic gross to just over $20 million.