With no new movies opening wide over the New Year's weekend, it may be said that the horses are all out of the gate and around the first turn in the lap of the 2009 box office race. And though last weekend's No. 3 horse, 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakuel,' has temporarily overtaken 'Sherlock Holmes' in second place, ain't nothing going to catch'Avatar.'

James Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza sold about $40 million worth of tickets on Monday and Tuesday and its total gross may pass $290 million before the East Coast clocks ring in the New Year. So far, the adventures on planet Pandora have shown no signs of weakening, despite Glenn Beckian-size conspiracy theories about the anti-American messages presumably sewn into the fabric of the story by Cameron. The movie is playing among all demographic groups, even Tea Partiers, and has generated some of the best-word-of-mouth this year. With no new movies opening wide over the New Year's weekend, it may be said that the horses are all out of the gate and around the first turn in the lap of the 2009 box office race. And though last weekend's No. 3 horse, 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakuel,' has temporarily overtaken 'Sherlock Holmes' in second place, ain't nothing going to catch 'Avatar.'

James Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza sold about $40 million worth of tickets on Monday and Tuesday and its total gross may pass $290 million before the East Coast clocks ring in the New Year. So far, the adventures on planet Pandora have shown no signs of weakening, despite Glenn Beckian-size conspiracy theories about the anti-American messages presumably sewn into the fabric of the story by Cameron. The movie is playing among all demographic groups, even Tea Partiers, and has generated some of the best-word-of-mouth this year.

With anticipated ticket sales of $50 million to $60 million this weekend, 'Avatar's' 17-day total will be in the neighborhood of $350 million.

With kids out of school this week, moms and toddlers have been elbowing teenagers out of the way to get in line for 'Alvin and the Chipmunks.' The 'Squeakuel' took over second place from 'Sherlock Holmes' on Monday, and might hold the spot through the weekend. Both 'Alvin' and 'Sherlock Holmes' are set up for $30 million to $40 million second weekends, but with 'Sherlock' drawing crowds at evening screenings long after 'Alvin' fans are in bed, it should regain second place by Sunday.

Perhaps because adults are tending to their children's moviegoing needs, films targeted for adults aren't doing great business during the holidays. Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy 'It's Complicated,' which stars Meryl Streep as a divorcee with an eager new boyfriend (Steve Martin) and an over-eager ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) is doing the best among them and should hold its fourth spot. With a 30% to 40% drop from its first to its second weekend, it should do $13-15 million this weekend.

Disney's animated 'The Princess and the Frog' has gotten a bump from the holiday liberation of school-age children, passing both 'The Blind Side' and 'Up in the Air' in Monday-Tuesday ticket sales. 'The Princess and the Frog' should do about $12 million over the weekend. Whether 'The Blind Side' finishes ahead of 'Princess' and up-and-comer 'Up in the Air' this weekend, it will pass the $200 million milestone, as astonishing feat in the careers of both Sandra Bullock and inspirational sports movies.

There are slim pickings among the bottom three spots on the box office top 10. The lame romantic comedy 'Did You Hear About the Morgans?' is fading faster than a disingenuous smile from either Hugh Grant or Sarah Jessica Parker, while the $80 million musical 'Nine' is dancing its way into the Turkey Hall of Fame.

Here's how the weekend looks to me:

1. 'Avatar,' $50-60 million.
2. 'Sherlock Holmes,' $37 million.
3. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks,' $34 million.
4. 'It's Complicated,' $13-15 million.
5. 'The Princess and the Frog,' $12 million.
6. 'Up in the Air,' $9 million.
7. 'The Blind Spot,' $8 million.
8. 'Nine,' $4 million.
9. 'Did You Hear About the Morgans?,' $3 million.
10.'Invictus,' $2.5 million.