I often curse American TV audience for keeping complete garbage on the air while ignoring ambitious, brilliant fare that has no choice but to slink away after a couple of seasons. It happens so often that it's painful to commit to a great new show, knowing how hard it is for intelligent programming to find a public. Maybe it's just perception, but I feel like moviegoers let me down less frequently than boob tube viewers. On the big screen, sometimes ambition gets rewarded rather than punished. Case in point: Inception, which not only rode the coattails of a great marketing campaign to a big weekend opening, but actually held on to the top spot for a second week in a row, dropping only 30% (rare for a major blockbuster) and edging toward $150 million.

I note that Inception is maybe the most audacious, uncompromising, bewildering movie to ever be budgeted in the nine figures. But people seem to be getting it, in a big way. It will, deservingly, end up as one of the summer's biggest hits.

Its main competition over the weekend was Salt, a return to populist form for Patriot Games director Philip Noyce, who had been trending arthouse lately with The Quiet American, Rabbit-Proof Fence and Catch a Fire. I half suspected that Salt would end up as the One That Got Away this summer, getting lost in the shuffle, but no, or at least not really: it ended up with a more than respectable $36 million in second place. The weekend's family offering, Ramona and Beezus, was probably too low-key to really compete smack in the middle of summer, but the tiny film will probably be content with its $8 million bow.

Click through for more and the full top 10.



Meanwhile, Toy Story 3 powers toward $400 million, while Eclipse will try to get to $300 to beat out its predecessor. (It may or may not happen.) It's also worth pointing out that The Last Airbender, despite all the derisive laughter, is doing pretty well for itself, and will walk away with a not-too-shabby $130 million domestic. Sequel?

1 - Inception (WB) - $43.5 ($11,473) - 31% - $134.7
2 - Salt (Sony) - $36.5 ($10,105) - new - $36.5
3 - Despicable Me (Universal) - $24.1 ($6,694) - 27% - $161.7
4 - The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Disney) - $9.7 ($2,764) - 45% - $42.6
5 - Toy Story 3 (Disney) - $9.0 ($3,265) - 25% - $379.5
6 - Ramona and Beezus (Fox) - $8.0 ($2,942) - new - $8.0
7 - Grown Ups (Sony) - $7.6 ($2,658) - 23% - $142.4
8 - Eclipse (Summit) - $7.0 ($2,253) - 48% - $279.7
9 - The Last Airbender (Paramount) - $4.2 ($1,962) - 46% - $123.3
10 - Predators (Fox) - $2.9 ($1,544) - 59% - $46.6

Next week: Charlie St. Cloud (the trailer for which was met with uproarious laughter when it played before Inception opening weekend), Cats & Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore, and Dinner for Schmucks, which will likely knock Inception off its perch.