- Associated Press - Monday, December 20, 2010

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jeff Bridges’ sci-fi sequel “Tron: Legacy” has leaped to the top of the box-office grid with a $43.6 million opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Disney release reboots the story line started in Bridges’ 1982 tale “Tron,” in which his character is hurtled into a deadly virtual reality known as the Grid. The movie co-stars Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde.

Though quaint by today’s standards, the computer-graphic effects in the original “Tron” were cutting-edge at the time. Yet the movie was a box-office underachiever whose following somehow swelled in the intervening decades in a way that perplexed even the studio’s executives.

“I sure wish I knew, because there is a very, very committed core group of people who just love that movie, and they have fanned the opening-weekend grosses,” said Chuck Viane, head of distribution for Disney.

Other newcomers premiered with modest to poor receipts, continuing a sluggish end to Hollywood’s year.

The weekend proved no picnic for Dan Aykroyd’s family flick “Yogi Bear,” which fell flat at a weak No. 2 with $16.7 million. The Warner Bros. release features the voices of Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake in an adaptation of the TV cartoon about the picnic-basket-thieving bear.

With children out of school over the holidays, Warner Bros. executives hope “Yogi Bear” will hold up well through Christmas and New Year’s.

“We wish it had been a bit higher, but we’ll catch up as we get going,” said Jeff Goldstein, the studio’s general sales manager.

The previous weekend’s top movie, 20th Century Fox’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” fell to No. 3 with $12.4 million, raising its total to $42.7 million.

Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale’s acclaimed boxing drama “The Fighter” had a so-so expansion nationwide after a stellar debut in limited release the previous weekend for the tale based on the life of real-life fighter Micky Ward. Released by Paramount, “The Fighter” came in at No. 4 with $12.2 million.

Reese Witherspoon’s love-triangle romance “How Do You Know” was a dud with just $7.6 million, the Sony release opening at No. 8. The movie co-stars Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson.

Overall revenues slipped to $134 million, down 2.6 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Avatar” debuted with $77 million on its way to becoming the biggest modern blockbuster with a $2.8 billion worldwide haul.

Considering the huge gap between the “Avatar” revenues and those for “Tron: Legacy,” Hollywood’s general business held up fairly well because of this year’s diverse undercard of new movies and holdovers.

“We weren’t down that badly,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “Last year, it was pretty much that one film. `Avatar’ so heavily dominated that marketplace, which was great for `Avatar,’ but for the other movies there wasn’t much there.”

“The King’s Speech,” a Weinstein Co. release that led Golden Globe contenders Tuesday with seven nominations, remained a strong earner as it continued its gradual expansion in limited release.

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