Fox’s Avatar held on to pole position in North America after a mere 3% slip on an estimated $75m as the weekend set an all-time box office record of $278m.

The combined haul shattered the previous mark of $253m set in July 2008 when The Dark Knight launched, adding further lustre to the industry’s first $10bn-plus year.

More box office fireworks are expected throughout the week and next weekend — typically a strong time for film-going because of the holidays — which will consolidate 2009’s status as the biggest year in box office history.

Avatar currently stands at $212.3m and combined with the $405m international tally has amassed $617.3m globally after 12 days and looks set to become one of the biggest films in history. The second weekend also drew $8.8m in ticket sales from IMAX screens, which was more than the opening weekend.

Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law opened very strongly in second place on $65.4m, followed in third by Fox’s Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquelon $50.2m over three and $77.1m over five days.

Universal’s comedyIt’s Complicated with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin opened fourth on $22.1m, while Paramount’s Up In The Airrounded out the top five after climbing three places and added $11.8m for $24.5m after four weekends.

Warner Bros enjoyed continued success with The Blind Side, which ranked sixth after six weeks and based on the $184m running total should cross the $200m mark within ten days.

TWC’s Nine climbed 11 places to eighth after expanding from four to 1,412 theatres and added $5.5m for $5.9m in its second weekend.

Estimated Top 10 North America December 25-27 2009
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (1) Avatar (Fox) Fox Int’l $75m $212.3m

2 (-) Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros) WBPI $65.4m –

3 (-) Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Fox) Fox Int’l $50.2m $77.1m

4 (-) It’s Complicated (Universal) UPI $22.1m –

5 (8) Up In The Air (Paramount) PPI $11.8m $24.5m

6 (3) The Blind Side (Warner Bros) WBPI $11.7m $184.4m

7 (2) The Princess And The Frog(Buena Vista) WDSMPI $8.7m $63.4m

8 (20) Nine (The Weinstein Company) TWC Int’l $5.5m $5.9m

9 (4) Did You Hear About The Morgans?(Sony) SPRI $5m $15.6m

10 (6) Invictus (Warner Bros) WBPI $4.4m $23.4m