Will Smith in I Am LegendAs expected, the Will Smith-starring intellectual zombie film I Am Legend opened very strong at the U.S. box office last weekend, leading all films by a good measure in its opening weekend.

The film starring the well-liked Smith, whose movies consistently deliver his likeable personality and positive personal and religious values, grossed an impressive $77.2 million during its first weekend in theaters. That’s $25 million more than any film in which he has starred has taken in during its opening weekend, and is a very strong performance indeed.

Finishing a surprising second was the CGI animated comedy film Alvin and the Chipmunks, selling a startling $45 million worth of tickets for the Fox studio. Fox was expecting the film to bring in about $20 million. The presence of Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl) as the Chipmunks’ boss probably helped extend the film’s appeal, though obviously the chipmunks must have been the big draw.

It is now obvious that audiences do not want to see the controversial fantasy film The Golden Compass, as it took in only $8.8 million and finished third. The money total represents a vertiginous 66 percent drop from the film’s already disappointing opening weekend total the week before. It is officially a disaster for New Line Cinema.

The Disney fantasy-comedy hit Enchanted came in fourth, grossing $5.5 million.

Screen shot from Alvin and the Chipmunks movieTogether, I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks accounted for an amazing 80 percent of the ticket gross of the top ten movies over the weekend, according to E! Online. As the E! story notes, audiences responded eagerly to the likeability factor of Smith and the animated rodents, respectively:

"It just shows how the market can expand when you have pictures that people want to see," Chris Aronson, Fox senior vice president of distribution, said Sunday.