Critically acclaimed 'Inception' awakes box office gold

The dream-warped Leonardo DiCaprio thriller "Inception" captivated North American audiences this weekend, pushing it to the top of the box office charts, industry estimates showed Sunday.

The summer blockbuster - one of only a handful of original, non-sequel movies to gain that title this year - flew to the number one spot with 60.4 million dollars in receipts on the strength of a smart, innovative story of a thief who specializes in infiltrating dreams and stealing thoughts.

With "The Dark Knight" director Christopher Nolan at the helm - who also brought to audiences the brain-twisting cult classic "Memento" - the latest DiCaprio film has wowed critics with its complex science fiction concepts.

Tumbling to second place was the 3-D animated film "Despicable Me," with a 32.7-million-dollar take, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The film from Universal Pictures, starring Steve Carell as the voice of Gru, a villain bent on snatching the moon, has made a total of 118 million dollars in its two weeks of release.

Another new entry this weekend, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," reached the third place on the box office chart with 17 million dollars, for the Nicholas Cage-starring story of a magician battling evil alongside his hapless pupil.

A previous top earner, vampire romance "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," meanwhile fell to fourth place, with 13.5 million dollars.

"Toy Story 3," which took fifth with 11.7 million dollars in receipts, has racked up 362.7 million dollars over its five weeks in theaters.

At sixth place was the Adam Sandler and Chris Rock comedy "Grown Ups," about a reunion of high school friends, which brought in 10 million dollars, while the critically-slammed "The Last Airbender" about beings endowed with powers to control air, earth, water and fire came in seventh with 7.4 million.

"Predators," updating a 1987 sci-fi classic about CIA-hired commandos hunted by an alien predator in the Central American jungle, earned 6.8 million dollars in its second week, tumbling five spots to eighth on the chart.

"Knight and Day," an action-comedy starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, earned 3.7 million dollars for the ninth spot and "The Karate Kid," with 2.2 million dollars in receipts, landed in 10th place, with an impressive 169-million-dollar overall take in its six weeks of release.

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