With no new movies opening wide over the New Year's weekend, it may be said that the horses are all out of the gate and around the first turn in the lap of the 2009 box office race. And though last weekend's No. 3 horse, 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakuel,' has temporarily overtaken 'Sherlock Holmes' in second place, ain't nothing going to catch'Avatar.'

James Cameron's sci-fi extravaganza sold about $40 million worth of tickets on Monday and Tuesday and its total gross may pass $290 million before the East Coast clocks ring in the New Year. So far, the adventures on planet Pandora have shown no signs of weakening, despite Glenn Beckian-size conspiracy theories about the anti-American messages presumably sewn into the fabric of the story by Cameron. The movie is playing among all demographic groups, even Tea Partiers, and has generated some of the best-word-of-mouth this year.