The much-hyped return to the multiplex of Mel Gibson, whose drunken and anti-Semitic outburst in 2006 turned him into a Hollywood pariah, proved no threat to James Cameron's "Avatar," which was No. 1 at the weekend box office for the seventh weekend in a row and passed the $2 billion mark globally.
"Avatar" sold about $30 million in tickets at North American theaters for a new domestic total of $594.5 million.
Overseas "Avatar," from 20th Century Fox, did about $95 million in business over the weekend. It now ranks as the No. 1 film of all time in terms of revenue (without adjusting for inflation) with $2.04 billion in global sales.
Heading into the weekend, box office analysts were unsure what to expect from Mr. Gibson's crime thriller "Edge of Darkness." Had moviegoers forgotten his rant and the subsequent tabloid brush fire? Many people in the movie business still harbor raw feelings about it.
"Edge of Darkness" ended up in second place with about $17 million, a solid result given Mr. Gibson's tarnished reputation and eight-year absence from a leading movie role. Warner said exit polls showed that 69 percent of the audience listed Mr. Gibson's presence as the primary reason for attending.
"There was probably some concern going in about what his fan base really was, but we feel terrific about this result," said Dan Fellman, Warner's president for theatrical distribution. "I think strong word of mouth will propel the movie forward very nicely."
Mr. Gibson plays a Boston homicide detective in the picture, which was produced and financed by GK Films, BBC Films and Mr. Gibson's company. Warner bought the distribution rights for about $27 million. The movie, which received mixed reviews, was directed by Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale").
The inexpensive romantic comedy "When in Rome" (Walt Disney Studios) was third for the weekend with about $12 million, according to Hollywood.com, which tracks ticket sales. The film performed best as a date movie, with exit polls showing couples made up 75 percent of the audience.
"Tooth Fairy," the Fox comedy starring Dwayne Johnson, was fourth with about $10 million and a new total of $26 million. Denzel Washington's supernatural adventure "Book of Eli" (Alcon Entertainment via Warner) was fifth with about $8.7 million ($74 million total).