Eric D. Snider tried his best to trick me into watching Beverly Hills Chihuahua this week. It didn't work on me, but it worked on millions of Snider acolytes all over North America, who joined forces to give the talking-animals kidflick a strong $29 million, first-place debut. I didn't see it, as I say, so it would be wrong for me to bemoan the decline of civilization that this surely (if unsurprisingly) represents. Feel free to do so in the comments.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist opened to $12 million and third place, which I'd have to say is okay for the low-profile, borderline-niche film. That number, though not terribly impressive, is actually a fair testament to Michael Cera's star power, since his presence was literally the only mass-marketable aspect of the movie. So the debut is at least a draw for Sony.

It was an interesting weekend in that there were several films opening in, or expanding into, semi-wide release. The biggest winner of that bunch has to be Religulous, Bill Maher's aggressively anti-faith documentary, which did $3.5 million on around 500 screens for $6,972 per screen. Given the preaching-to-the-relatively-small-choir quality of the film, I don't expect it to hold up too well in the weeks ahead, but this level of interest is a mild surprise. Facing off against Religulous ideologically was David Zucker's conservative spoof An American Carol which, according to the estimates, edged out Religulous with $3.8 million on over 1,600 screens.

Ed Harris's lightweight western Appaloosa expanded to roughly 1,000 screens and took in $5 million -- which is okay, but seems like a missed opportunity. Faring worse were Flash of Genius (1100 screens) and Blindness (1700), with $2.3 and $2 million respectively, both landing outside the top 10. The grim Blindness was a no-sale from the beginning, especially since the critics never got on board, but the unabashedly populist Flash of Genius underperformed. Maybe the ads emphasized windshield wipers too much.

A bit more plus the weekend's top 12 after the jump.