Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception''Inception' received another warm reception from moviegoers, marking a second straight box office win for Christopher Nolan's drama about reality vs. perception. It headed off an interception from challenger 'Salt,' the Angelina Jolie spy thriller about international deception.

Without exception, pundits had predicted a repeat of last week's victory for 'Inception,' but the film's estimated $43.5 million gross this weekend surpassed even the most optimistic projections. Credit positive word of mouth, striking visuals (the film earned $4.8 million on IMAX screens alone), and return viewers still trying to decipher the plot's mysteries. As a result, the Leonardo DiCaprio hit, which had enjoyed a week of strong business, dipped just 31 percent from last weekend's opening, logging the second smallest week-two dropoff of 2010. Having zoomed past $100 million in its first seven days, 'Inception' boasts a 10-day total of $143.7 million. That's more than the $128 million that DiCaprio's last hit, this year's similarly brain-bending 'Shutter Island,' earned throughout its four-month run.

'Salt' wasn't far behind, finishing second with an estimated $36.5 million debut, driven by Jolie's appeal to both men and women when she's performing the action heroics that have always been behind her biggest hits. The only thing holding it back was competition from 'Inception' as a still-viable choice for action fans. Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception''Inception' received another warm reception from moviegoers, marking a second straight box office win for Christopher Nolan's drama about reality vs. perception. It headed off an interception from challenger 'Salt,' the Angelina Jolie spy thriller about international deception.

Without exception, pundits had predicted a repeat of last week's victory for 'Inception,' but the film's estimated $43.5 million gross this weekend surpassed even the most optimistic projections. Credit positive word of mouth, striking visuals (the film earned $4.8 million on IMAX screens alone), and return viewers still trying to decipher the plot's mysteries. As a result, the Leonardo DiCaprio hit, which had enjoyed a week of strong business, dipped just 31 percent from last weekend's opening, logging the second smallest week-two dropoff of 2010. Having zoomed past $100 million in its first seven days, 'Inception' boasts a 10-day total of $143.7 million. That's more than the $128 million that DiCaprio's last hit, this year's similarly brain-bending 'Shutter Island,' earned throughout its four-month run.

SEE WHAT LEONARDO DICAPRIO SHOULD DO OTHER THAN ACT


'Salt' wasn't far behind, finishing second with an estimated $36.5 million debut, driven by Jolie's appeal to both men and women when she's performing the action heroics that have always been behind her biggest hits. The only thing holding it back was competition from 'Inception' as a still-viable choice for action fans.

Selena Gomez, John Corbett, and Joey King in 'Ramona and Beezus'The weekend's other major newcomer, 'Ramona and Beezus,' didn't even crack the top 5, grossing $8 million for a sixth-place finish. The Selena Gomez movie played well to girls and their grandmothers (who probably read the Beverly Cleary novels that inspired the movie when they were girls), but that wasn't a big enough crowd to keep the film from being the fourth choice in a crowded family-film marketplace, behind 'Despicable Me,' 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' and the month-old 'Toy Story 3.'

In fact, 'Ramona' was one of the few movies this week that did worse than expected instead of better. 'Despicable Me,' in its third week, had been expected to fall to around $20 million, but it dipped just 27 percent to finish at No. 3 with an estimated $24.1 million for the weekend and an impressive three-week total of $161.7 million. At No. 4, 'Apprentice' did a hair better than expected, conjuring up an estimated $9.7 million for a 12-day total of $42.7 million. In fifth place, 'Toy Story 3' cemented its status as the biggest movie of 2010 ($379.5 million to date) by grossing another estimated $9 million, a striking number for a movie in its sixth week of release.

The full top 10:
1. 'Inception,' $43.5 million (3,792 screens), $143.7 million total
2 'Salt,' $36.5 million (3,612), new release
3. 'Despicable Me,' $24.1 million (3,600), $161.7 million
4. 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' $9.7 million (3,504), $42.7 million
5. 'Toy Story 3,' $9.0 million (2,766), $379.5 million
6. 'Ramona and Beezus,' $8.0 million (2,719), new release
7. 'Grown Ups,' $7.6 million (2,859), $142.4 million
8. 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,' $7.0 million (3,121), $279.7 million
9. 'The Last Airbender,' $4.2 million (2,127), $123.3 million
10. 'Predators,' $2.9 million (1,846), $46.6 million

Top 10 movies of summer 2010:
1. 'Toy Story 3,' $379.5 million
2. 'Iron Man 2,' $310.9 million
3. 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,' $279.7 million
4. 'Shrek Forever After,' $234.8 million
5. 'The Karate Kid,' $171.7 million
6. 'Despicable Me,' $161.7 million
7. 'Inception,' $143.7 million
8. 'Grown Ups,' $142.4 million
9. 'The Last Airbender,' $123.3 million
10. 'Robin Hood,' $105.1 million

•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.