Three cheers for The Book of Eli! The post-apocalyptic film (a.k.a. The Road for Dummies) pulled down $38 million over the Martin Luther King holiday, and $32.7 million from Friday-to-Sunday, which was good for the third biggest January opening ever. And yet it still didn’t even come close to finishing in first place. That’s because now in week five, Avatar shows no signs of slowing down. To wit: its $54.6 million four-day haul was higher than any January opening weekend ever and set a record for the Martin Luther King holiday frame. As we do each Tuesday, here’s a breakdown of the top five at the box office.
1. Avatar: $54.6 million ($505 million total)
On Saturday Avatar passed Star Wars to become the third highest grossing movie of all time. And at the rates Avatar is receding—which is to say, not at all; over the holiday it actually rose 9 percent from last weekend—it will pass The Dark Knight next week and could eventually even top Titanic. Speaking of the soon-to-be former biggest movie ever, internationally Avatar is already at $1.6 billion, meaning it should grab Titanic‘s global crown sometime at the end of the month. In a word: gasp. And we didn’t even mention the Golden Globe wins for James Cameron and the film itself, which probably fully cement Avatar as the Oscar frontrunner (not that the Globes mean anything, but they kinda do). We can’t be the only ones who think James Cameron’s Laser Cats 5 would gross at least $250 million, right?
2. The Book of Eli: $38 million ($38 million total)
Who needs John Travolta anyway? Certainly not Denzel Washington. After stumbling over the summer with mediocre returns for Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Denzel returned to theaters and almost found career best numbers for The Book of Eli. For the record, this is the second best opening of Mr. Washington’s lengthy career, behind only American Gangster, and based on the per screen averages (over $12,000), it could have good legs through the end of the month. Somewhere, Harvey Weinstein is wondering why he wasn’t able to get numbers like this for The Road and probably cursing up a storm while doing so.
3. The Lovely Bones: $20.5 million ($21 million total)
Stuck in the in-between of failed limited release for the past five weeks, The Lovely Bones finally went wide this weekend and found itself a respectable $20.5 million in the process. As The Weinstein Company learned with Nine (a dismal $18 million total after five weeks), when an Oscar hopeful gets destroyed by the critics, finding any audience is borderline impossible. Credit then to Paramont for getting The Lovely Bones off ground. The studio refocused the ad campaign from “awards bait” to “‘tween girls and a whodunit” and it worked. We doubt the future for Bones is bright, but at least it’ll wind up with better numbers than Nine.
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: $15 million ($196 million total)
Further proof the end of the world is nigh: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel dipped just 9 percent over the weekend and will now cross $200 million sometime this week. For those of you without intimate knowledge of the grosses for the original Alvin and the Chipmunks, that means the squeakquel will gross even more before all is said and done. As the saying goes: fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice… and start buying canned tuna fish and Twinkies.
5. The Spy Next Door: $13 million ($13 million total)
Jackie Chan is back! Kinda! The much-derided The Spy Next Door barely held off Sherlock Holmes (starring Golden Globe winner Robert Downey Jr.; huh?) to finish in fifth place over the holiday. Don’t expect much more from this title—it should be on DVD by March—but it bodes a bit well for The Karate Kid remake co-starring Mr. Chan as Mr. Miyagi. If something as bad as this can gross $13 million, what can a slick remake of a classic gross? Probably more than we would like.