Box Office Weekend: ‘Dear John’ Bumps ‘Avatar’

“Dear John”, a young-adult weepie based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, debuted as the No. 1 movie with $32.4 million, dethroned Avatar as king of the domestic box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Dear John“, a young-adult weepie based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, debuted as the No. 1 movie with $32.4 million, dethroned Avatar as king of the domestic box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Head of distribution at Sony Rory Bruer said: “It’s very cool to know that it was our movie that audiences just totally embraced and made No. 1 for the weekend.” As for runaway blockbuster “Avatar,” he quipped, “I think they’re going to be fine in the long run.”

While “Avatar” features a human-alien romance light-years away, “Dear John” centers on a long-distance love story between a soldier (Channing Tatum) and his sweetheart (Amanda Seyfried) back home. [Read a review of Dear John]

“Avatar” slipped to No. 2 with $23.6 million, raising its domestic total to $630.1 million. Directed by James Cameron, 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar” surpassed his own “Titanic,” which had held the domestic revenue record at $600.8 million.

With a record $2.2 billion worldwide, “Avatar” also has soared past the $1.8 billion “Titanic” took in globally.

“Avatar” still is going strong after eight weeks, with the added luster of a monthlong buildup to the Academy Awards on March 7. Following the example of Oscar champ “Titanic,” “Avatar” tied for the lead at the Academy Awards with nine nominations and is a front-runner to win best picture.

The weekend’s other new wide release, Lionsgate’s spy story “From Paris With Love,” opened at No. 3 with $8.1 million. That John Travolta spy-action film earned only a quarter of Dear John’s take. Another burly espionage melodrama, the Mel Gibson vehicle “Edge of Darkness”, sank more than 60% in its second frame. Meanwhile, the male-oriented Legion and The Book of Eli fell into the bottom half of the Top 10, behind the frilly Kristen Bell romantic comedy When in Rome.

Guy movies in trouble; girls on top. It’s enough to make industry analysts wonder if there’s a place for male stars, and male audiences, at the box office — at least on Super Bowl weekend.

Here’s a list of estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com [Hollywood via Time]:

1. Dear John, $32.4 million, first weekend
2. Avatar, $23.6 million; $630.1 million, eighth week
3. From Paris With Love, $8.1 million, first weekend
4. Edge of Darkness, $7 million; $29.1 million, second week
5. Tooth Fairy, $6.5 million; $34.3 million, third week
6. When in Rome, $5.5 million; $20.9 million, second week
7. The Book of Eli, $4.8 million; $82.2 million, fourth week
8. Crazy Heart, $3.7 million; $11.2 million, eighth week
9. Legion, $3.4 million; $34.7 million, third week
10. Sherlock Holmes, $2.63 million; $201.6 million, seventh week
11. The Blind Side, $2.6 million; $241.6 million, twelfth week.

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