Leonardo DiCaprio's "Inception" has won a battle of superstar action thrillers over Angelina Jolie's "Salt" at the weekend box office.
"Inception" remained the No. 1 movie for the second-straight weekend with $43.5 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Warner Bros. thriller featuring DiCaprio as leader of a team that sneaks into people's dreams raised its 10-day total to $143.7 million.
Sony's spy caper "Salt" debuted a solid No. 2 with $36.5 million. The movie stars Jolie as a CIA operative who goes rogue after she's accused of being a Russian sleeper agent.
Coming in at No. 3 with $24.1 million was Steve Carell's family hit "Despicable Me." The animated comedy raised its domestic total to $161.7 million.
In a rare convergence of fresh ideas, the top three movies all were original stories, not sequels or adaptations of comic books, best-sellers, video games or other pre-existing material.
"Typically in summer, all we're seeing are rehashes and sequels and reboots, whatever you want to call them," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "To have original stories as the top-three films is a lesson to studios that maybe audiences are open to more originality in the summer and to perhaps not play it so safe, even though that goes against the grain of every fiber in every studio executive's being."
The weekend's other new wide release, 20th Century Fox's family comedy "Ramona and Beezus," took in $8 million to finish at No. 6. The movie is based on Beverly Cleary's children's books about a teenage girl and her accident-prone little sister.
"Inception" hung in strongly in its second weekend, its total down just 31 percent from its $62.8 million opening. During the busy summer, top hits often drop 50 percent or more in the second weekend and rarely repeat as the No. 1 movie.
The film will quickly shoot past the $200 million mark at the domestic box office and has a good shot at topping $300 million, said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros.
Repeat business is accounting for a good share of "Inception" revenues as fans return to delve deeper into the labyrinthine story concocted by writer-director Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight").
"There's so much on the screen. It's so original and so smart that it raises questions that I think can be answered in different ways if you see the movie multiple times," Fellman said.
While young males usually make up the bulk of the action audience, women and older crowds were the core fans of Jolie's "Salt." Females accounted for 53 percent of viewers, while 59 percent of the audience was older than 25, according to Sony.
"What the movie really has going for it just a kick-ass performance by Angelina Jolie," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony. "It just speaks well to the viability of our film for many weeks to come that you have such an incredible hold for 'Inception,' and we're still able to open our picture. We coexisted really nicely."
Overall revenues rose for the fourth-straight weekend as Hollywood continued to recover from a box-office swoon earlier in the summer. Receipts totaled $164 million, up 11 percent from the same weekend last year, when "G-Force" was No. 1 with $31.7 million.
Revenues this season are at $3 billion, about 3 percent ahead of the record pace of summer 2009. But accounting for higher ticket prices, movie attendance is down 3.4 percent compared to last summer's, according to Hollywood.com.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Inception," $43.5 million.
2. "Salt," $36.5 million.
3. "Despicable Me," $24.1 million.
4. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," $9.7 million.
5. "Toy Story 3," $9 million.
6. "Ramona and Beezus," $8 million.
7. "Grown Ups," $7.6 million.
8. "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," $7 million.
9. "The Last Airbender," $4.2 million.
10. "Predators," $2.9 million.