Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009

Avatar tops Christmas box office in US and Canada

Avatar is on course to make $1bn worldwide

Avatar has topped the Christmas box office in a record-breaking weekend for cinemas in the US and Canada.

The estimated $278m (£174m) in weekend ticket sales broke the previous record of $253m (£158m) set in July 2008, the weekend The Dark Knight was released.

Sci-fi epic Avatar took $75m (£47m) in its second weekend, according to early studio estimates.

Sherlock Holmes, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel and It's Complicated all enjoyed strong debuts.

1. Avatar - $75m
2. Sherlock Holmes - $65.4m
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - $50.2m
4. It's Complicated - $22.1m
5. Up in the Air - $11.8m

In its 10 days of release, Avatar has made $212m (£132.6m) in the US, and could be on its way to grossing more than $1bn (£625.6m) worldwide.

"This thing is going to be playing and playing, I can tell you that," said Bert Livingston, 20th Century Fox distribution executive. "There's a lot of business out there. Everybody's got good movies out."

Sherlock Holmes, which stars Robert Downey Jr as Arthur Conan Doyle's detective, was in second place with a weekend total of $65.4m (£41.m), taking $24.9m (£15.6m) on Christmas Day alone.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, which opened on Wednesday, took in $50.2m (£31.4m) at the weekend and $77.1m (£48.2m) in its five days of release.

It's Complicated, a love triangle comedy starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, opened in fourth place with $22.1m (£13.8m) in takings.

In fifth place with $11.8m (£7.26m) was Up in the Air, starring George Clooney in the acclaimed story of a corporate downsizer who questions his role in life.

"It's an absolutely fitting end to the biggest box office year of all time," said Paul Dergarabedian, box office analyst for

"It's just been a total roller coaster ride. It's like audience members are on board."

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