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“Alice,” “Avatar” power March to record box-office totals

According to published reports, the domestic box office tallied more than $832 million in March, setting a new record as the highest gross for that month. The previous high was $795 million, set during March 2007.

Brandon Gray of Box Office Mojo reports that 3-D enhanced features such as Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” and DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” pushed overall business up 10 percent over February, and an additional 29 percent over March 2009.

Gray adds that the first-quarter gross for 2010 also set a new record, amassing $2.65 billion (up 9 percent over Q1 of 2009).

Higher grosses does not necessarily mean higher attendance figures, though. Increased prices for 3-D tickets appears to have contributed to more than $70 million of the overall March total, according to Mojo. Factor in the recent rise in general ticket prices across the board, and March 2010 only ranks ninth on the list of estimated attendance. Currently, March 2010 accounts for an estimated 100 million tickets sold. The highest month remains March 2002, which racked up an estimated 132 million tickets sold (thanks to contributions from the animated hit Ice Age and a 20th anniversary re-release of Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.”).

If “Alice” won the month of March, then Fox’s “Avatar” won the quarter. James Cameron’s holdover hit, which opened last December but continued to play strong well into 2010, earned $457 million from January through March, making it the highest grossing film in Q1. Overall, Fox leads all studios for Q1 with an impressive $751 million in year-to-date b.o. for a 26% market share, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Warner is in second place and gaining ground, thanks to a strong start for the studio’s “Clash of the Titans” remake.

“Avatar” was followed by “Alice,” Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” ($121 million), the romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day” ($109 million) and Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” ($106 million), which is now out on DVD.

To read more about up-to-date box office figures, visit www.boxofficemojo.com.

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