Dear JohnThe domination of James Cameron's 'Avatar' and its mostly male audience ended on the first day of its eighth weekend. Tears pouring out of the eyes of moviegoers watching Lasse Hallstrom's 'Dear John' in adjacent theaters first loosened 'Avatar's' grip on No. 1, and the ensuing flood washed it out of the spot completely.

On Friday, 'Dear John' more than doubled the business of 'Avatar,' selling $13.8 million worth of tickets to the blue people's $6.2 million. If estimates by Exhibitor Relations, Inc. hold up, 'Dear John' will have scored an astonishing $32.4 million opening weekend, producing a $9 million gap between it and 'Avatar,' now ensconced in second place.

Don't grieve for Cameron, however. 'Avatar's' $23.6 million take runs its domestic box office record to $630 million, a figure that may not be threatened until Cameron's next $200 million sci-fi, CGI epic, 'Battle Angel,' is released, probably in 2012. Dear JohnThe domination of James Cameron's 'Avatar' and its mostly male audience ended on the first day of its eighth weekend. Tears pouring out of the eyes of moviegoers watching Lasse Hallstrom's 'Dear John' in adjacent theaters first loosened 'Avatar's' grip on No. 1, and the ensuing flood washed it out of the spot completely.

On Friday, 'Dear John' more than doubled the business of 'Avatar,' selling $13.8 million worth of tickets to the blue people's $6.2 million. If estimates by Exhibitor Relations, Inc. hold up, 'Dear John' will have scored an astonishing $32.4 million opening weekend, producing a $9 million gap between it and 'Avatar,' now ensconced in second place.

Don't grieve for Cameron, however. 'Avatar's' $23.6 million take runs its domestic box office record to $630 million, a figure that may not be threatened until Cameron's next $200 million sci-fi, CGI epic, 'Battle Angel,' is released, probably in 2012.

'Dear John' stars Channing Tatum, just back from war in 'G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra,' as another young soldier whose decision to re-up after 9/11 ultimately prompts a 'Dear John' letter from his girl back home. It's not that the lovely Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) has fallen in love with someone else, or that she's fallen out of love with him; there are simply complications and complications are why stories of undying love open the floodgates.

The real broken hearts today belong to the makers and backers of 'From Paris With Love,' a John Travolta spy thriller that brought few people in from the cold. 'From Paris' sold a dismal $8.1 million worth of tickets, a third of what Travolta action movies normally do during their opening weekends. Still, that was enough on a snowy Super Bowl weekend to put 'From Paris" in third place on the box office chart, ahead of the free-falling 'Edge of Darkness' ($7 million), 'Tooth Fairy' ($6.5 million) and 'When in Rome' ($5.5 million).

'Crazy Heart,' a country-western drama starring Jeff Bridges, got the biggest bump from the three Oscar nominations it received Feb. 2. Its $3.7 million opening in just 819 theaters was good enough to crack the Top 10. It's in eight place, behind 'The Book of Eli' ($4.8 million) and ahead of 'Legion' ($3.4 million) and 'Sherlock Holmes' ($2.6 million).

The Best Picture and Best Actress Oscar nominations for 'The Blind Side' and a host of top nominations for 'Up in the Air' failed to throw much additional business their way. They finished out of the Top 10; 'The Blind Side' is 11th with $2.6 million and 'Up in the Air' is 12th with $2.3 million.

As one of many (all?) who vastly underestimated 'Dear John''s weekend potential, I'm miffed as to why it has done so much better than previous adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels. All four of Sparks' previous tear-jerkers -- 'Message in a Bottle,' 'Nights in Rodanthe,' 'A Walk to Remember' and 'The Notebook' -- have been adapted and the best any had done on its opening weekend was $13.5 million by 'Notebook' in 2004.

True, Sunday's Super Bowl figured to slow business for 'Avatar' and increase business for anything targeted for women. And 'Dear John' is in about 600 more theaters than 'Notebook' was for its opening weekend. But $32.4 million is a huge number for early February and it makes 'Dear John' one of the five biggest opening chick flicks ever. The others were the two 'Twilight Saga' movies, 'Sex and the City' and '50 First Dates.'

You could argue that '50 First Dates' got some help from accompanying males, but it would be a rare bird that strayed into one of the others, and if you spot a man at a screening of 'Dear John,' fit him with a transmitter so we can follow his migratory habits. He'll probably show up next at 'The Last Song,' the fifth adaptation of a Sparks novel, at its opening the end of next month.

The Top 10:

1. 'Dear John,' $32.4 million (2,969 theaters), new release.
2. 'Avatar,' $23.6 million (3,000), $630 million total.
3. 'From Paris With Love,' $8.1 million (2,722), new release.
4. 'Edge of Darkness,' $7 million (3,066), $29.1 million.
5. 'Tooth Fairy,' $6.5 million (3,218), $34.3 million.
6. 'When in Rome,' $5.5 million (2,456), $20.9 million.
7. 'The Book of Eli,' $4.8 million (2,820), $82.3 million.
8. 'Crazy Heart,' $3.7 (819), expanded release, $11.2 million.
9. 'Legion,' $3.4 (2,339), $34.6 million.
10. 'Sherlock Holmes,' $2.6 million (1,805), $201.6 million.