The football-inspired drama The Blind Side has become the underdog hit of the season with a $20.4 million weekend and a box-office victory over The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The sports tale had been runner-up for the previous two weekends to the vampire romance New Moon, which fell to second place with $15.7 million.

Great word-of-mouth from fans has sustained The Blind Side, which stars Sandra Bullock as a woman whose family adopts homeless teen Michael Oher, now a rookie tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.

New Moon still is far ahead in total gross with $255.6 million domestically, compared with $129.3 million for The Blind Side.

In limited release, George Clooney's comedy Up in the Air took in nearly $1.2 million at just 15 theaters for a whopping average of $79,000 a cinema. Directed by Jason Reitman (Juno), Up in the Air has earned great reviews and buzz as a potential Academy Awards front-runner, positioning it for a long run as it expands. (The Inquirer's Carrie Rickey gave it ****, calling it "the most utterly enjoyable" movie of the year.)

The war-on-terrorism-themed drama Brothers debuted at No. 3 with $9.7 million. A remake of a 2004 Danish film, Brothers stars Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, and Jake Gyllenhaal in the story of a prisoner of war who returns from Afghanistan to find his sibling has become the man of the house for his family.

Overall revenue came in at $101 million, up 22.6 percent from the same weekend last year, when Four Christmases was No. 1 with $16.8 million.

Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com, estimates domestic receipts will finish at $10.6 billion for the year, easily surpassing the industry's all-time high of $9.68 billion in 2007.

- Associated Press

Animal cruelty alleged on TV show

Two stars of the I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here TV show have been charged with animal cruelty after allegedly killing and cooking a rat to eat during filming.

Chef Gino D'Acampo, who won the viewer-feedback contest series, and actor Stuart Manning were charged after animal-welfare activists lodged a complaint about a segment for the British TV program, which was filmed in Australia, the activists and British media reported yesterday.

New South Wales state police said that two men, 33 and 30 years old, were charged with animal cruelty in connection with the program but did not give names or other details. The two have been asked to appear in court on Feb. 3. The maximum penalty is three years in prison.

"The killing of a rat for a performance is not acceptable. The concern is this was done purely for the cameras," David O'Shannessy from the New South Wales RSPCA told the British Broadcasting Corp.

- AP

Gibson to film in Mexico

A Mexican governor says Mel Gibson will make a movie at a prison in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz next year.

Veracruz Gov. Fidel Herrera says part of the Ignacio Allende prison will be emptied in January "because a grand production will be filmed there with our friend, the actor and producer Mel Gibson." Gibson filmed his 2006 Mayan-language movie Apocalypto in Veracruz, and donated $1 million this year to replace storm-damaged homes in Veracruz and in neighboring Chiapas state.

- AP

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