Mel Gibson shoots for a comeback in 'Edge of Darkness'Mel Gibson learned this weekend that American moviegoers are not as quick to forgive as he'd hoped. The Boston crime thriller 'Edge of Darkness,' which features Gibson in his first movie role since his drunk driving arrest and alleged anti-Semitic rant in 2006, grossed just $17.1 million over its opening weekend.

In contrast, the similarly themed 'Taken,' starring Liam Neeson, did $24.7 million on the same weekend last year. And 'Taken's' opening weekend was shortened by the fact that its target audience of young adult males took Sunday off to watch the Super Bowl.

'Edge of Darkness' certainly posed no threat to 'Avatar's' run at a seventh straight weekend atop the box office chart. James Cameron's sci-fi epic added another $30 million to a world-beating record that now stands at about $595 million; it is within two or three days of passing 'Titanic's' domestic box office record of $601 million. As if it needed more help, Tuesday's announced Oscar nominations are bound to give 'Avatar' more tailwind heading into its eighth weekend. Mel Gibson shoots for a comeback in 'Edge of Darkness'Mel Gibson learned this weekend that American moviegoers are not as quick to forgive as he'd hoped. The Boston crime thriller 'Edge of Darkness,' which features Gibson in his first movie role since his drunk driving arrest and alleged anti-Semitic rant in 2006, grossed just $17.1 million over its opening weekend.

In contrast, the similarly themed 'Taken,' starring Liam Neeson, did $24.7 million on the same weekend last year. And 'Taken's' opening weekend was shortened by the fact that its target audience of young adult males took Sunday off to watch the Super Bowl.

'Edge of Darkness' certainly posed no threat to 'Avatar's' run at a seventh straight weekend atop the box office chart. James Cameron's sci-fi epic added another $30 million to a world-beating record that now stands at about $595 million; it is within two or three days of passing 'Titanic's' domestic box office record of $601 million. As if it needed more help, Tuesday's announced Oscar nominations are bound to give 'Avatar' more tailwind heading into its eighth weekend.

Meanwhile, the critically eviscerated romantic comedy 'When in Rome' did better than expected, posting an opening weekend take of an estimated $12 million, enough to put it in third place ahead of holdovers 'Tooth Fairy' ($10 million), 'The Book of Eli' ($8.8 million) and the fast-sinking horror movie 'Legion' ($6.8 million).

But the underperforming 'Edge of Darkness' is the weekend's big story. Gibson has been successful in a variety of genres, but the action thriller, especially those in which he plays a tough cop ('Lethal Weapon') or a man out for revenge ('Payback,' 'Ransom'), has been his forte. And Thomas Craven, a Boston homicide detective trying to find his own daughter's killer in 'Edge of Darkness,' was a role tailor-made for him.

The reviews for 'Edge' were mixed, but most critics liked his performance. Yet its opening is the weakest for a Gibson-starring action film since his Oscar-winning 1995 historical epic 'Braveheart,' which opened in 1,000 fewer theaters. Certainly, it does not bode well for Gibson's second 2010 comeback movie, 'The Beaver,' a comedy/drama about a married man who wears a beaver puppet over one hand and talks to it as if it were a living thing.

Sometime next year, we'll find out if there is a softer side to Mel, as a screenwriter. His two previous scripts -- for 'The Passion of the Christ' and 'Apocalypto' -- were ripe with primitive violence. His third screenplay is titled 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation' and will star him as a career criminal whose ally in a Mexican prison is a 9-year-old boy.

Look ahead, 'Avatar's' next challengers are 'From Paris With Love,' an action spy pic starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and 'Dear John,' a chick flick about a soldier in Iraq (Channing Tatum), his girl back home (Amanda Seyfried) and the guy who would come between them (Henry Thomas).

Results for weekend Jan. 29-31:

1. 'Avatar,' $30 million (3,074 theaters), $594.5 million total
2. 'Edge of Darkness,' $17.1 million (3,066), new release
3. 'When in Rome,' $12.1 million (2,456), new release
4. 'Tooth Fairy,' $10 million (3,345), $26.1 million
5. 'The Book of Eli,' $8.8 (3,075), $74.4 million
6. 'Legion,' $6.8 million (2,476), $28.6 million
7. 'The Lovely Bones,' $4.7 million (2,638), $38 million
8. 'Sherlock Holmes,' $4.3 million (2,250), $197.3 million
9. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks,' $4.5 million (2,526), $209.8 million
10. 'It's Complicated,' $3.7 million (2,096), $104 million