LOS ANGELES British director Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" set a Christmas Day sales record at the box office in North America, taking a narrow lead over last weekend's champ, "Avatar," according to early estimates released on Saturday.
"Sherlock Holmes," in which Robert Downey Jr. reinvents the ascetic Victorian sleuth as a dashing superhero, earned $24.9 million during its first day of release on Friday, distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said.
The record for a Christmas Day opening was set last year when "Marley and Me" launched with $14.4 million.
"Avatar" earned $23.5 million on Friday, taking the eight-day total for director James Cameron's costly 3-D extravaganza to $160.8 million, said 20th Century Fox.
Fox also released "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which opened at No. 3 with $14.5 million. The family-oriented sequel got an early start on the holiday by opening on Wednesday, and its total stands at $41.3 million.
Betty Thomas directed the follow-up to the 2007 live-action animated hit that grossed more than $360 million worldwide.
Another new release, director Nancy Meyers' "It's Complicated," followed at No. 4 after earning $7.1 million during its first day on Friday. The Universal Pictures comedy stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.
"Up in the Air" rose three places to No. 5 in its first weekend of national release, with Friday sales of $3.7 million. Director Jason Reitman's meditation on love and loneliness in corporate America has earned $16.4 million since Paramount Pictures released it in 15 theaters on December 4.
The studios will release data for the Friday-Sunday period on Sunday.
Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc.. 20th Century Fox is a unit of News Corp.. Universal Pictures is a unit of General Electric Co.. Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc..
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Paul Simao)