America loves their talking Chipmunks. 

In somewhat of a surprise, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" snuck by "Avatar" on Wednesday to take the pre-Christmas box office with an impressive $18.7 million.   That's a nice jump from the original's 2007 mid-December opening day of $13.3 million.  This has to be incredibly encouraging for 20th Century Fox which probably didn't expect the film to win any days of the its opening frame until Saturday when families are most free over the holiday break  The original "Alvin" made $279 million domestically. 

Fox's "Avatar," meanwhile, did more than OK with $16.4 million for second place.  In less than a week, "Avatar" has grossed an impressive $129 million in the U.S.  James Cameron's epic was also one of the few titles to not drop from Tuesday to Wednesday this week, another positive sign and pretty significant when you're in over 3,400 theaters.  Needless to say, 20th Century Fox is ending the year on a very high note.

Among other new wide releases, "Up in the Air" expanded to 1,895 screens grossing $1.7 million for a $911 per screen.  That's the third best per screen in the top ten on Wednesday, but only slightly above "Princess and the Frog's" $705.  In comparison, "Alvin" and "Avatar" did $5,143 and $4,764 on twice as many screens (note: the more screens, the harder it usually is to have a large per screen take).  Paramount will have to hope their Oscar contender gets more adult moviegoer action as the weekend progresses.

Overall, the industry expects the following results for the upcoming 3-day weekend based on industry surveys.  "Avatar," "Alvin" and "Sherlock Holmes" with the monster grosses, but be followed by "It's Complicated," "The Princess and the Frog," "Up in the Air," "The Blind Side," "Nine" and, um, "Did You Hear About The Morgans?" scrapping the bottom of the ticket aisle barrel.  Oh, and of course, "The Twlight Saga: New Moon" could creep in there and outgross "Nine" or "Morgans." 

Christmas Eve is traditionally a slow box office day with many Americans traveling, but look for things to perk up tomorrow with the opening of "Sherlock" and many people heading to the theater after their holiday feasts.

Continuing box office coverage as it happens on HitFix.