As fruitful relationships between studio and film-maker go, they don't get much better than the collaboration between Lionsgate and Tyler Perry. Both parties scored the highest launch of their careers at the weekend as Madea Goes To Jail stormed to the top with an estimated $41.1m number one debut that played its part in propelling the box office towards ever greater heights.

Made for relatively low cost and sustained by high profit margins thanks to solid marketing and a loyal fanbase that draws chiefly from the female African-American demographic, this latest comedy from the prolific Perry demonstrates the wisdom of last summer's first-look deal, which sees at least three more titles in the offing.

Perry's wider strategic importance to the studio was shown when it emerged recently that his Perry's 34th Street Films and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films will team up with Lionsgate on the release of Lee Daniels' Sundance winner Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire.

Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire capitalised on its status as Sunday's night's Oscar favourite and climbed four places to number five in its 15th weekend, taking $8.1m after expanding by more than 600 theatres into 2,244. The $98m running total will see the picture ease past $100m within days and only tonight will reveal whether it can become that rarest of entities: a critical and commercial smash with Oscars to boot.

As Warner Bros' erstwhile champion Friday The 13th tumbled 80% and five places to sixth, Fox's kidnapping thriller Taken climbed one to second and continued to give its star Liam Neeson the ride of his life. The picture will cross $100m within the week thanks to a muscular $11.4m haul from 3,10 screens in the fourth weekend that raised the tally to $95.2m.

While Neeson pictures have grossed more than $2bn in North America and $4.3bn worldwide thanks to roles in hits like Batman Begins, Schindler's List, Love Actually and the Star Wars and Chronicles Of Narnia franchises, Taken has delivered his biggest result as the headline star.

Focus Features' animated hit Coraline climbed two places to number three in its third weekend on $11m for an excellent $53.4m, while Friday The 13th added $7.8m for $55m. While it would seem that as is customary for horror releases the picture's core audience flooded the theatres in the opening weekend, the contribution of this latest entry into a decades-old franchise should not be underestimated, nor its part in what is shaping up to be a record breaking year at the box office.

Sony's teen comedy Fired Up! disappointed in its opening weekend as it placed ninth on $6m. Studio chiefs would rather focus on their hit comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which ranks eighth after six weekends on $121.4m and is an unqualified success. Buena Vista's romantic comedy Confessions of A Shopaholic fell three places to number seven in its second weekend on $7m for $27.7m.

Buena Vista can look ahead with relish to next weekend when it releases Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience and studio executives will hope to replicate the success they enjoyed last year with a similar Hannah Montana venture. Also next weekend Fox releases Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li produced by Hyde Park Entertainment, and The Weinstein Company releases its immigration ensemble drama Crossing Over, which stars Harrison Ford and Ashley Judd.

All of the above will need to make hay while the Sun shines because a week later Warner Bros launches Watchmen in what is widely expected to be the first $200m-plus release of the year.

Speaking of Warner Bros mega-hits, the studio announced that The Dark Knight had finally crossed $1bn worldwide mark. The studio re-released the Batman saga in North American theatres in January to help it cross the threshold.

The re-release merely consolidated the action picture's status as the second-highest domestic release and the fourth highest worldwide. In the film's IMAX release, it is the largest 2-D digitally re-mastered IMAX release of all time in both the domestic market with $49.6m and worldwide with a gross of $64.9m. A much expected best supporting actor win tonight for the late Heath ledger would be the icing on the cake.

Estimated Top 10 North America Feb 20-22, 2009
Film (Dist)/Int'l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date
1 (-) Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail (Lionsgate) Mandate Int'l $41.1m -
2 (3) Taken (Fox) Europacorp $11.4m $95.2m
3 (5) Coraline (Focus Features) FFI $11m $53.4m
4 (2) He's Just Not That Into You (Warner Bros) New Line Int'l $8.5m $70.1m
5 (9) Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Pathe Int'l $8.1m $98m
6 (1) Friday The 13th (2009) (Warner Bros) PPI $7.8m $55m
7 (4) Confessions Of A Shopaholic (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $7m $27.7m
8 (6) Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) SPRI $7m $121.4m
9 (-) Fired Up! (Sony) SPRI $6m -
10 (7) The International (Sony) SPRI $4.5m $17m