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'Avatar' Remains on Top With $48.5M Weekend

LOS ANGELES -- James Cameron's "Avatar" continues to race up the box office charts, remaining No. 1 domestically for the fourth straight weekend with $48.5 million and placing second among all-time top-grossing films worldwide.

The science-fiction saga from 20th Century Fox added $143 million overseas to raise its international haul to $906 million. With $429 million domestically, "Avatar" has pulled in $1.34 billion worldwide, behind only Cameron's "Titanic," which took in $1.8 billion.

In just 24 days, "Avatar" shot past the $402.1 million domestic total of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" to become the No. 1 release of 2009. Cameron's tale of humans and aliens in conflict on a distant world now stands at No. 6 on the all-time domestic chart.

The film has just over $100 million to go to pass the No. 2 domestic hit, "The Dark Knight" at $533.3 million.

"I think we'll get there very soon," said Bert Livingston, 20th Century Fox distribution executive. "I believe anything is possible with this picture. Nothing would surprise me. There's a still a long way to go, and it's going to keep on playing and playing."

The No. 2 and No. 3 box office draws remained unchanged from the previous weekend, with the Warner Bros. hit "Sherlock Holmes" in second place at $16.6 million and 20th Century Fox's "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" in third at $16.3 million. "Sherlock Holmes" raised its domestic take to $165.2 million, and "Alvin and the Chipmunks" lifted its total to $178.2 million.

Among new movies, Lionsgate's vampire thriller "Daybreakers" had the best premiere, coming in at No. 4 with $15 million. "Daybreakers" stars Ethan Hawke as a reluctant vampire racing to find a substitute for human blood in a world overrun by the undead in the near future.

Universal's romantic comedy "Leap Year" opened at No. 5 with $9.2 million. The movie stars Amy Adams as a woman who finds love in an unexpected place as she chases across Ireland to propose to her boyfriend.

The Weinstein Co. comedy "Youth in Revolt," debuted at No. 9 with $7 million. The film features Michael Cera as a teen going to extremes to win the heart of his dream girl.

"Avatar" had the best fourth weekend ever for a film, easily surpassing the previous high of $28.7 million for "Titanic," which dominated the box office for nearly four months.

The coming weekend likely will be another big one for "Avatar," with many people off next Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

Hollywood's box office roll has lingered in 2010. Overall domestic revenues came in at $156 million, up 6.6 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Gran Torino" led with $29.5 million, according to box office tracker Hollywood.com.

It was the eight-straight weekend of rising ticket sales.

"The winning streak just continues," said Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst for Hollywood.com. "The momentum of 2009 is just carrying over into 2010."

Hollywood put up record revenue of $10.6 billion domestically in 2009, easily surpassing the previous high of $9.7 billion in 2007.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Avatar," $48.5 million.
2. "Sherlock Holmes," $16.6 million.
3. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," $16.3 million.
4. "Daybreakers," $15 million.
5. "It's Complicated," $11 million.
6. "Leap Year," $9.2 million.
7. "The Blind Side," $7.8 million.
8. "Up in the Air," $7.1 million.
9. "Youth in Revolt," $7 million.
10. "The Princess and the Frog," $4.7 million.

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