Sci-fi epic 'Avatar' tops North American box office

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The Independent Culture

Science-fiction adventure "Avatar" topped the North American box office this weekend, scooping 77 million dollars in a stellar debut for the effects-laden epic, final figures showed Monday.

Director James Cameron's first film since the 1997 Oscar-winner "Titanic" is a 3-D spectacular with a reported budget of 300-500 million dollars, which would make it the most expensive movie ever.

The film, a love story set on a distant planet, accounted for about 59 percent of the weekend box office, according to industry tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Analysts believe "Avatar" would have scored an even bigger opening had it not been for the winter storm that dropped record snowfalls on large areas of the eastern United States, deterring movie-goers from theaters.

Avatar dislodged Disney's "The Princess and the Frog," which earned 12.2 million dollars for second place.

Third was "The Blind Side," a drama about a white couple who give an illiterate black teen a home and a new lease on life. The film scored 10 million dollars in its fifth week of release.

Next was "Did You Hear About the Morgans?", a romantic comedy in which Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play an estranged couple who witness a mob hit and are placed in a witness protection program. The film grossed 6.6 million dollars in its debut.

Fifth place went to "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," the vampire romance sequel adapted from Stephenie Meyer's phenomenally successful books, with 4.4 million dollars.

In sixth spot with 4.2 million dollars was "Invictus" starring veteran actor Morgan Freeman, about how then-president of South Africa Nelson Mandela united the country around the 1995 World Cup.

Seventh place went to "Disney's A Christmas Carol," starring wacky comedy hero Jim Carrey with earnings of 3.4 million dollars.

Eighth was "Up In the Air" starring George Clooney in the acclaimed story of a corporate downsizer who starts to question his role in life, which earned 3.2 million dollars.

"Brothers," a drama starring "Spider-Man" Tobey Maguire about the impact of the Afghanistan war on a conflicted US family, which earned 2.9 million dollars in its fourth week of release, was next.

"Old Dogs," a Disney film starring John Travolta and Robin Williams, earned 2.3 million dollars to round out the top 10 films.