Finishing at No. 2 for the weekend was Robert Downey Jr.’s crime caper “Sherlock Holmes” with $38.4 million. The Warner Bros. film lifted its domestic total to $140.7 million after 10 days in theaters.
In third place was 20th Century Fox’s family tale “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” with $36.6 million. It raised its 10-day total to $157.3 million.
The top-three movies, along with solid holdovers that included Universal’s “It’s Complicated” at No. 4 with $18.7 million, steered Hollywood to a big start to 2010 after a year of record revenue.
Hollywood finished 2009 with $10.6 billion domestically, easily surpassing the previous record of $9.7 billion in 2007, according to Hollywood.com.
Factoring in today’s higher admission prices, the year was strong but not a modern record-breaker for number of tickets sold. According to Hollywood.com, domestic admissions came in at 1.42 billion in 2009, the most in the last five years, though well below the modern record of 1.6 billion in 2002.
In Hollywood’s glory years of the 1930s and ’40s, before television eroded the movie audience, estimated movie attendance ran as high as 4 billion some years.
Studios began 2010 with a headstart over last year. Overall revenues came in at $230 million, up 50 percent from New Year’s weekend in 2009, when “Marley & Me” was No. 1 with $24.3 million.
Like “Titanic” 12 years ago, “Avatar” has fairly clear sailing now that the holidays are over. Hollywood is entering a slow season, when fewer big movies arrive and competition is lighter.
“Titanic” lingered as the No. 1 film for months leading up to the Academy Awards, where it won 11 Oscars, including best picture and director.
“Avatar” also proved a critical favorite with strong Oscar potential. Cameron broke new ground in combining live-action, digitally-enhanced performances, visual effects and 3-D presentation to immerse viewers in his futuristic tale of humans and aliens on a distant moon.