illion, bringing its cumulative total to $24.5 million - already nearly earning back its production budget.
"For us, this movie was always the movie that we felt was going to be a real focus during the awards season," said Rob Moore, Paramount vice chairman. "It feels like this should have a long run as awards season continues."
"Nine," the adaptation of the Broadway musical (which itself was a riff of Federico Fellini's classic film "8 1/2") earned $5.5 million in 1408 theaters.
"It's an absolutely fitting end to the biggest box office year of all time," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "It's just been a total roller coaster ride. It's like audience members are on board."
2009 still has several days to go, but the year is already a record for domestic ticket sales with more than $10 billion at the box office. That surpassed the $9.7 billion mark of 2007.
While some of the credit has to go the recession (movies historically do well in hard times when a trip to the movie theater is a relatively cheap form of entertainment and escapism), there was a feeling Sunday that Hollywood had put forth a better product this Christmas.
"People say it's the recession," said Dergarabedian. "It's the movies - it's really the movies. It seems like when people aren't at home, they're at the movies."
He added: "You're going to find a smile on the face of every studio chief out there today."
Hollywood also seemed to be offering good ol' spectacle to moviegoers. "Avatar" grossed $8.8 million in IMAX theaters, actually increasing from its opening weekend. IMAX chairman and president Greg Foster said they were operating essentially at capacity.
"There is no context," said Foster. "It's so far beyond where we've ever been. It's not eking past a record, it's shattering it."
Christmas weekend was also neatly organized around various demographics. There was science-fiction, romantic comedy, family fare, action-packed thriller and serious awards-contender.
"That's what fueled this Christmas, the diversity of the films," said Dergarabedian. "It was like a cinematic buffet line. If you can't find a movie that you like in the marketplace right now, you don't like movies."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Avatar," $75 million.
2. "Sherlock Holmes," $65.4 million.
3. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," $50.2 million.
4. "It's Complicated," $22.1 million.
5. "Up in the Air," $11.8 million.
6. "The Blind Side," $11.7 million.
7. "The Princess and the Frog," $8.7 million.
8. "Nine," $5.5 million.
9. "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" $5 million.
10. "Invictus," $4.4 million.