Fox's comedy Marley & Me starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston soared to the top of the charts over a lucrative Christmas weekend on an estimated $37m, beating out heavyweight contenders from Buena Vista and Paramount.

Marley & Me, a tale about a couple and their dog, set a new Christmas Day opening record when it opened on $14.7m, beating Ali's $10.2m set in 2001. Buena Vista's family tale Bedtime Stories starring Adam Sandler and Paramount's The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett both beat the previous opening day record, too, as they debuted in second and third places over the three-day weekend on $28.1m and $27m, respectively.

Launching in fourth place on an excellent $21.5m was MGM/UA's Tom Cruise wartime thriller Valkyrie, which exceeded expectations to score a much needed triumph for UA under Cruise's stewardship. The resounding result lays to rest early bad word surrounding the production and will also go some way towards negating the debacle that was Lions For Lambs.

On the other side of the coin there was Frank Miller's comic book adaptation The Spirit starring Garbriel Macht, Samuel Jackson, Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson, which disappointed in ninth place through Lionsgate on $6.5m.

Last weekend's champion Yes Man starring Jim Carrey fell to fifth place on $16.5m for $49.6m through Warner Bros, while Sony's Will Smith drama Seven Pounds slipped four places to sixth on $13.4m for a whisker over $39m.

In the limited arena Miramax's stage play adaptation Doubt with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams climbed five places to number ten in its third weekend as $5.7m raised its running total to $8.8m.

Overall box office for the top 12 reached $75m to beat the same weekend last year by approximately $10m. In terms of year-on-year performance, 2008 currently trails last year by 1% on total theatrical revenues of $9.5bn with three days to go and will not overtake last year. Ticket sales are approximately 5.2% down on 2007.

Estimated Top 10 North America Dec 26-28, 2008
Film (Dist)/Int'l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date

1 (-) Marley & Me (Fox) Fox Int'l $37m $51.7m
2 (-) Bedtime Stories (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $28.1m $38.6m
3 (-) The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Paramount) WBPI $27m $39m
4 (-) Valkyrie (MGM) Fox Int'l $21.5m $30m
5 (1) Yes Man (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Pictures Int'l $16.5m $49.6m
6 (2) Seven Pounds (Sony) SPRI $13.4m $39m
7 (3) The Tale Of Despereaux (Universal) UPI $9.4m $27.9m
8 (4) The Day The Earth Stood Still (Fox) Fox Int'l $7.9m $63.6m
9 (-) The Spirit (Lionsgate/Odd Lot) SPRI $6.5m $10.4m
10 (15) Doubt (Miramax) WDSMPI $5.7m $8.8m