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Opening day: 'Dear John' headed toward surprise win over 'Avatar'

February 6, 2010 | 11:01 am

DearJohn The reign of "Avatar" at the box office is ending a week earlier than expected.

Based on Friday ticket sales, Sony Pictures' romantic tear-jerker "Dear John" is headed toward a much stronger-than-expected opening weekend of more than $30 million, which would make it the most popular movie in the U.S. and Canada. 20th Century Fox's "Avatar" is on track to gross $22 million or $23 million.

"Dear John," based on a novel by "The Notebook" author Nicholas Sparks, sold $13.8 million worth of tickets Friday, according to Sony. Fox said the 3-D blockbuster "Avatar" took in $6.8 million.

"Avatar" has ruled the box office for seven straight weeks and had been expected to do so one final time, based on surveys of potential moviegoers.

Lionsgate's John Travolta action picture "From Paris With Love," meanwhile, collected just $3 million Friday and is headed toward a disappointing weekend debut of less than $10 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in "Dear John." Credit: Scott Garfield / Sony Pictures