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There aren’t many genuine movie stars left. Will Smith is one. There are arguments for George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt, but none of those three can reliably open a movie the way Smith can. Until the second half of this year it seems unlikely that anyone would have argued for Sandra Bullock as a genuine star. She hadn’t been in a feature since 2007′s The Premonition, and she hadn’t been in a big feature for a few years prior to that.

But two of her three films in 2009 did massive business, with The Blind Side qualifying as a genuine surprise hit. That performance led a group of theater-owning execs to name Sandra Bullock as the top-earning star of 2009.

The Quigley Publishing Company (No relation to our own Adam Quigley) generates a couple of giant industry bibles every year (the International Motion Picture Almanac and the International Television and Video Almanac) and also conducts a survey of theater chain execs to see who they pick as the top money-making star for the year. Quigley describes the poll as:

…an annual survey of motion picture theatre owners and film buyers, which asks them to vote for the ten stars that they believe generated the most box-office revenue for their theatres during the year. It has been long regarded as one of the most reliable indicators of a Star’s real box-office draw because the selections are done by people whose livelihood depends on choosing the films that will bring audiences to their theatres.

This year the top award goes to Bullock based primarily on two pictures: The Proposal, which took in $315m worldwide, and The Blind Side, which has done nearly $200m domestic since opening five weeks ago. (The film hasn’t opened internationally.) Those two films give a pass to All About Steve, I guess. ($33.8m domestic, no international numbers.)

Here’s the full list of top stars according to the poll:

1. Sandra Bullock
2. Johnny Depp
3. Matt Damon
4. George Clooney
5. Robert Downey Jr.
6. Tom Hanks
7. Meryl Streep
8. Brad Pitt
9. Shia LaBeouf
10. Denzel Washington

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