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First look: 'Book of Eli,' 'Lovely Bones' find audiences, but 'Avatar' stays on top

January 18, 2010 |  9:32 am

BookEli There's still no stopping "Avatar" at the box office, but its continued dominance didn't keep "The Book of Eli" and "The Lovely Bones" from finding more than enough moviegoers over a very healthy Martin Luther King-holiday weekend.

The James Cameron-directed blockbuster, "Avatar," sold $54.6 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada from Friday through Sunday, according to an estimate from distributor 20th Century Fox, bringing its domestic total to a phenomenal $505 million. On a three-day basis, its receipts dropped only 15%.

That tiny decline indicates there's no end in sight at the box office for "Avatar," which won best dramatic picture and best director Golden Globe awards last night. It's already the third-biggest movie of all time domestically, not accounting for ticket-price inflation, and now looks likely to best Cameron's own "Titanic" for the No. 1 spot.

Overseas, "Avatar" added an additional $125 million through Sunday, thanks in part to a strong opening in Italy, bringing its foreign total to $1.15 billion and total worldwide ticket sales to $1.655 billion. By the end of the week, it will likely surpass the $1.84 billion grossed by "Titanic" around the globe in 1998.

"The Book of Eli" collected $38 million over the four-day weekend, right in line with expectations and a very healthy start given its $80-million production budget. The religious-themed action drama starring Denzel Washington drew a heavily young male audience and garnered a solid average audience grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

It marks a second straight success for independent financier Alcon Entertainment, which paid for the movie, after its unexpected smash, "The Blind Side."

LovelyBones Despite a poor performance at three theaters over the last month, "The Lovely Bones" found the young female audience Paramount Pictures was targeting and grossed $20.5 million from Friday through Monday as it expanded nationwide. That's a good start given its production budget of $63 million, after tax rebates, but it remains to be seen if the Peter Jackson-directed adaptation of the bestselling book can hold well after drawing a narrowly targeted crowd of teen and college-aged girls. Mixed reviews and the movie's poor performance in limited release indicate that it will not draw many adults.

Paramount is hoping it has a smaller-scale "Twilight" on its hands, but with a good but not great average audience grade of B, it's unclear whether word of mouth will be enough to keep the movie playing well in the coming weeks.

The Jackie Chan family comedy "The Spy Next Door," which Lionsgate released for financier Relativity Media, had a so-so debut of $13 million over the four-day weekend. The overwhelmingly family audience gave the movie a strong average grade of A-.

Of the movies that opened last weekend, romantic comedy "Leap Year" had a decent hold of 37%, based on Sunday's estimate from Universal Pictures, while Lionsgate's horror flick, "Daybreakers," plunged 68% and the Weinstein Co.'s Michael Cera comedy, "Youth in Revolt," dropped off 56%.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Denzel Washington in "The Book of Eli." Credit: David Lee / Warner Bros.

Bottom photo: Saoirse Ronan in "The Lovely Bones." Credit: DreamWorks Studios

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