In terms of revenue, it was Hollywood's second-biggest Thanksgiving period ever. The top 12 movies took in $223.7 million from Wednesday to Sunday, trailing only the $232.2 million haul over Thanksgiving in 2000.
Summit Entertainment's vampire romance "Twilight," which had a huge No. 1 opening the previous weekend, took a steep 62 percent decline from its $69.6 million debut and was neck-and-neck for second place with Disney's animated family flick "Bolt."
Based on Sunday's estimates, "Bolt" had a slight lead with $26.6 million for the weekend, compared to $26.4 million for "Twilight." Their rankings could change once final numbers are released Monday.
"Twilight' is still a phenomenon, but you can't really maintain that level of intensity week after week," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
"Twilight" raised its 10-day total to $119.7 million, while "Bolt" lifted its sum to $66.9 million.
Hollywood typically releases a handful of holiday-themed movies starting in November, but "Four Christmases" has the market virtually to itself this season.
"It was the perfect time. It's the only movie out there that deals with Christmas," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros.
The only potential competition comes Dec. 12 with the John Leguizamo tale "Nothing Like the Holidays."
The weekend's other new wide release, the Nicole Kidman-Hugh Jackman epic "Australia," opened at No. 5 with $14.8 million for the weekend and $20 million since debuting Wednesday.
The 20th Century Fox film reunites Kidman with "Moulin Rouge" director Baz Luhrmann for a World War II-era romance between an aristocratic British woman and an Australian ranch hand.
Sean Penn's drama "Milk" got off to a great start in limited release, coming in at No. 10 with $1.4 million in just 36 theaters. The film had a strong average of $38,375 a cinema, compared with $9,571 in 3,310 theaters for "Four Christmases."
"Milk," an Academy Awards contender released by Focus Features, stars Penn as gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor slain by a colleague who also killed the mayor. The film expands to more theaters Friday.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Four Christmases," $31.7 million.
2. "Bolt," $26.6 million.
3. "Twilight," $26.4 million.
4. "Quantum of Solace," $19.5 million.
5. "Australia," $14.8 million.
6. "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," $14.5 million.
7. "Transporter 3," $12.3 million.
8. "Role Models," $5.3 million.
9. "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," $1.7 million.
10. "Milk," $1.4 million.
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Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Rogue Pictures are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; DreamWorks, Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros., New Line, Warner Independent and Picturehouse are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.