James Cameron’s Avatar hits the $1 Billion dollar

Thanks to astronomic word-of-mouth, inflated 3-D ticket prices, and consecutive holiday weekends that began on a Friday, “Avatar” continued its seemingly unstoppable climb to the Hallelujah Mountains of U.S. and global box office.

According to estimates from Hollywood.com Box Office, James Cameron’s sci-fi opus grossed $68.3 million over New Years weekend, a tiny 10 percent drop from Christmas weekend for a $352.1 million domestic total — easily the biggest third weekend in the U.S. ever (2002’s “Spider-Man” had held the record with $45 million).

Much more impressively, in just 17 days, “Avatar” has surpassed $1 billion in the global box office. To put that in perspective, it took “The Dark Knight” pretty much its entire theatrical run just to make it to that milestone. (Another landmark: $66.4 million of “Avatar’s” worldwide total is from IMAX theaters, a record for the mega-screen format.)

“Avatar” wasn’t the only film to ring in the new year with serious box-office bounty, either. “Sherlock Holmes” sleuthed out an elementary $38.4 million for second place, a 41 percent drop for $140 million total.

Hot on its heels, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” chirped to $36.6 million, dropping just 25 percent for $157 million total and third place. (So what will the inevitable third film be called? The Second Squeakquel? The Threakquel?)

“It’s Complicated” fell a bite-sized 15 percent, cooking up $18.7 million for fourth place and $59.1 million total.

And in fifth place, “The Blind Side” actually improved upon its total last week, rising 8 percent for $12.7 million and $209.1 million total. (As EW noted yesterday, this means star Sandra Bullock is the only actress ever to have a film marketed on her star power alone pass $200 million in U.S. box office.)

In fact, with no major debuts to steal away fresh audiences, it was simply a fabulous weekend to be in movie theaters, period. “Up in the Air” pitched down an imperceptible 3 percent with $11.3 million and $45 million total.

“The Princess and the Frog” hopped up 11 percent with $10 million and $86 million total. Even certified turkey “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” was up 4 percent, bringing in $5.2 million for a (still woeful) $25.6 million total.

Overall, the top ten box office was up 70 percent from last year, when “Marley and Me” was barking its way into filmgoers’ hearts.

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