Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and this week moviegoers unexpectedly swarmed to the low-budget comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop”, making the small film the unanticipated number one at the box office this weekend, according to studio estimates from Media By Numbers.

With a take of $33.8 million, the debut is considered an impressive showing for star Kevin James, who many fans know and love as the star of the television show “The King of Queens” and co-star of 2007’s “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” with Adam Sandler. James plays a mild-mannered security guard who takes on a gang of organized criminals who want to take over the mall he is assigned to protect.

Meanwhile Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” continued it’s strong run, falling to second place with $22.2 million. The drama has earned $73.2 million in six weeks and is being named among possible Oscar contenders.

Three new films opened to the top ten. The horror film “My Bloody Valentine 3-D” was third with $21.9 million. The controversial biopic “Notorious,” which tackles the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s life story, was fourth with $21.5 million, followed by the Nickelodeon comedy “Hotel for Dogs”, which fetched $17.7 million.

Another Oscar hopeful, “Slumdog Millionaire” got a big boost from last week’s Golden Globes win as best drama. The Danny Boyle film surged 56 percent over last weekend, taking tenth place and $5.9 million. Overall, ticket sales were up 33 percent over last weekend and 29 percent over the same weekend last year.

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Box Office Grosses
Week Ending January 18, 2009

Rank Title Weekend Total Gross
1 Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009) $33.8M $33.8M
2 Gran Torino (2008) $22.2M $73.2M
3 My Bloody Valentine 3-D (2009) $21.9M $21.9M
4 Notorious (2009) $21.5M $21.5M
5 Hotel for Dogs (2009) $17.7M $17.7M
6 Bride Wars (2009) $11.8M $37.6M
7 The Unborn (2009) $9.85M $33.1M
8 Defiance (2008) $9.21M $9.55M
9 Marley & Me (2008) $6.33M $133M
10 Slumdog Millionaire (2008) $5.9M $42.7M