The biggest news at the box office this weekend had nothing to do with the head-to-head battle between alien-wrangling cowboys and three-dimensional toys, though we'll get to that, of course. Instead, it was the fourth-place film, 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,' that conjured headlines with its $1 billion worldwide haul. Warner Bros. announced on Sunday that the franchise finale had become the ninth movie in history to cross that threshold, not to mention the biggest hit in the franchise, beating the $974.8 million worldwide gross earned by 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' in 2001.

Meanwhile, Universal executives had to be asking themselves, What the smurf? 'Cowboys & Aliens' rode into town, guns a-blazin', all but certain to lasso the top spot. But the gunslingers and extraterrestrials found an unexpectedly equal foe in the wee blue folk with the floppy caps. The result: an astonishingly strong showing by 'The Smurfs' that left both movies in a virtual tie when early studio estimates were issued on Sunday.

There's barely a Smurf's worth of difference in the claimed figures for the two movies: $36,206,250 for 'Cowboys' vs. '$36,200,000 for 'The Smurfs.' That's a difference of fewer than 800 moviegoers. So, while 'Cowboys' maintains the slimmest of edges on Sunday, 'Smurfs' could wind up in the saddle when final figures are released on Monday.