Marley & Me added an estimated $24.1m for $106.5m, ahead of Buena Vista's family comedy Bedtime Stories on $20.3m for $85.4m and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, a strong awards contender that is released through Paramount in North America, in third place on a highly respectable $18.4m for $79m.
The only change occurred towards the bottom of the top ten as Miramax's drama Doubt climbed two places to number eight in its fourth weekend on $5m for $18.7m, while Fox Searchlight's much fancied Slumdog Millionaire climbed three to number ten on $4.8m for $28.8m in its eighth week. The Spirit tumbled out of the top ten and landed at 13 place in its second week after $3.3m raised the tally to a disappointing $17.8m through Lionsgate.
Paramount Vantage's wartime drama Defiance starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber launched well on $121,000 on a limited screen count while THINKFilm's Holocaust drama Good with Viggo Mortensen performer less well in its $9,300 debut.
Glancing at some other notable awards season contenders, Warner Bros' Gran Torino stayed at number 15 after four weekends on $2.8m for $9.7m, while Focus Features' Milk held on to 16 after six on $1.9m for $17.1m and The Weinstein Company's The Reader climbed five to 17 after four on $1.6m for $3.6m. Universal's Frost/Nixon remained at number 18 after five on $1.4m for $6.3m, Paramount Vantage's Revolutionary Road climbed eight places to 21 after two on $979,000 for $1.4m and Fox Searchlight's The Wrestler ranks number 23 after three on $432,000 for $1.8m. All six titles are in limited release at this stage.
Total North American box ticket sales for 2008 finished on $9.63bn according to box office tracker Media By Numbers, a little behind the $2.68bn record set in 2007. Admissions fell 4.3% to 1.35bn.
Next weekend's wide releases are: Fox's comedy Bride Wars with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway and Universal's horror title The Unborn starring Gary Oldman and Odette Yustman.
Estimated Top 10 North America Jan 2-4, 2009
Film (Dist)/Int'l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date
1 (1) Marley & Me (Fox) Fox Int'l $24.1m $106.5m
2 (2) Bedtime Stories (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $20.3m $85.4m
3 (3) The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Paramount) WBPI
4 (4) Valkyrie (MGM) Fox Int'l $14m $60.7m
5 (5) Yes Man (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Pictures Int'l $13.9m $79.4m
6 (6) Seven Pounds (Sony) SPRI $10m $60m
7 (7) The Tale Of Despereaux (Universal) UPI $7m $43.7m
8 (10) Doubt (Miramax) WDSMPI $5m $18.7m
9 (8) The Day The Earth Stood Still (Fox) Fox Int'l $4.9m $74.3m
10 (13) Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Fox Int'l $4.8m $28.8m