How Kevin James managed to open a movie called Paul Blart: Mall Cop to the tune of $39 million in the middle of January may become one of those cosmic mysteries, like the origin of the universe and what the "Frost Glacier Freeze" flavor of Gatorade actually is. It's kind of astonishing, and a little disturbing. What drew people, exactly? Was it the part in the trailer where he tries a rolling maneuver but misses and has to painfully drag his fat self behind a mall billboard?

Two halfway-decent newcomers languished in third and fourth, though I would think that both My Bloody Valentine and Notorious are happy with their circa-$24 million 4-day bows. Notorious, in particular, opened on just over 1,600 screens, giving it the best per-screen average on the chart. Hotel for Dogs landed just below the two with $22.5 million -- also pretty good for a fairly anonymous little family film opening against a higher-profile family film.

As a footnote, $19.7 million of My Bloody Valentine's $24.24 million came from its pricier 3-D playdates, showing that 3-D is a considerable draw (and perhaps also that filmgoers are savvy to the fact that these films play in 3-D in some theaters and in 2-D in others).

Defiance expanded into wide release, ending up with a $10.7 million holiday weekend, which seems roughly commensurate with its failed Oscar hopes. Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionare both held up well, with the latter actually seeing a gain compared to last weekend, even if you don't count Monday (and even though its screen count dropped slightly).

The full 4-day top 10 after the jump.
1 - Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) - $39.00 ($12,405) - $39.00
2 - Gran Torino (Warner Bros.) - $26.22 ($8,821) - $77.21
3 - My Bloody Valentine (Lionsgate) - $24.24 ($9,566) - $24.24
4 - Notorious (Fox Searchlight) - $24.00 ($14,652) - $24.00
5 - Hotel for Dogs (Dreamworks) - $22.50 ($6,879) - $22.50
6 - Bride Wars (Fox) - $14.03 ($4,345) - $39.85
7 - The Unborn (Universal) - $10.99 ($4,660) - $34.23
8 - Defiance (Paramount Vantage) - $10.70 ($5,981) - $11.04
9 - Marley & Me (Fox) - $7.45 ($2,524) - $133.86
10 - Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) - $7.15 ($12,285) - $43.99

See more at Box Office Mojo.

Next weekend looks rather crowded, with two substantial players entering the market in wide release (Inkheart and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), The Dark Knight getting a 250-screen rerelease, and Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Frost/Nixon and Revolutionary Road all expanding.