Box Office: "Avatar" Continues Decimation, Others Try to Keep Up

1/18/2010 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Tim Strain

Another weekend, another handful of records broken by Jim Cameron’s “Avatar.” Like the army’s genocidal blitz on the Na’vi homeland (home...tree?), there is no stopping the epic actioner, which joined the $500 million club today. The game-changer continues to do whatever it pleases at the box office, never stopping to consider historical trends. It netted another cool $42 million over the three-day weekend and $55 million with the inclusion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Altogether, it is an 8.5% increase on last weekend’s take, earning by far the highest total gross of any film in its fifth weekend (“Titanic” previously held the record with $30 million) or a film over the holiday weekend (breezing by the $46 million garnered two years ago by “Cloverfield”).

It is clear now that it will top “Titanic,” both domestically and worldwide. It is within $100 million of the States' record and $200 million of the worldwide record. The only question is by how much it will break those records. $700 million/$2 billion? It’s possible. After this weekend’s big wins at the Golden Globes, it is set for a monster push by Fox for the Academy Awards, and it will occupy all IMAX screens until “Alice in Wonderland” opens on March 5, 2010 (the Academy Awards are on March 7).

For a second, it appeared as if it was going to be knocked off its throne by Denzel Washington's post-apocalyptic jaunt, “The Book of Eli,” which opened with $11.7 million on Friday, edging “Avatar’s” $10.4 million take. Audiences continued to spread the good word of mouth for the Blue Man Epic, and it vaulted back to the number-one spot on Saturday with a strong $17 million and never relinquished the throne. Executives at Warner Brothers have to be more than pleased with “Eli’s” overall $38 million grab, the second-biggest opening of any Washington film, after “American Gangster” netted $43 million on its way to a $130 million total. The holiday weekend inflated “Eli’s” opening, though, and the dead of winter shouldn’t help its legs. Expect the $80 million actioner to pull even and end up around $100-110 million.

Peter Jackson’s first true dud in years, “The Lovely Bones,” expanded from three to 2,563 theaters and offered up a quiet $21 million. Dreamworks and Paramount can hope that the film plays well through the awards season, because it needs to after a couple of release delays and a budget that ballooned to over $100 million. They have to be dubious about its prospects, though. Aside from another solid lead performance from youngster Saoirse Ronan and maybe the visual effects, it has nothing going for it, and the critics have deservedly trashed it. This is all quite disappointing to this very big Peter Jackson fan.

Jackie Chan, in his wayward quest to pander to the widest audience possible, hopefully had a moment of clarity and realized that soccer moms don’t want to bring their tots to martial arts movies. “The Spy Next Door” opened with $13 million and hopefully won’t even double that by the end of its run. It has to compete with...get ready for it...Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in his first serious dramatic role since last year’s “Race to Witch Mountain." He next stars in “The Tooth Fairy," a highly anticipated metaphysic epic which hits theaters in four days.

The majority of holdovers had solid drops over the four-day frame. “The Squeakquel” will cross $200 million this week after garnering another $15 million in its fourth weekend. “It’s Complicated” continued its modestly impressive run, dropping 17% to tack on another $9 million for a cumulative $90 million. It and “The Princess and the Frog” should both top $100 million by week’s end. Depending on how long Summit Entertainment wants to push “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” it could cross the $300 mark after finishing at $292 million this weekend. Last week’s biggest opener, the other vampire movie “Daybreakers,” got pummeled and dropped 60% and out of the top 10. Last week’s other releases, “Leap Year” and “Youth in Revolt,” posted drops of 24% and 47% percent, respectively. None of these movies will be remembered a year from now.

It was a good weekend to be awards bait. “Avatar” walked away with Best Director and Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Blide Side” earned awards for its leads. If her acceptance speech is an indicator, Sandra Bullock is apparently as shocked as everyone else that she got one of the year’s top acting prizes and her film has somehow made $227 million. Robert Downey Jr., however, knows that his film is a success because of him. Some in the business predicted “Holmes” to be a flop, but with $182 million in the bank already and its eyes set on $200 million (and a sequel or two), it is anything but. “Up in the Air” has netted $64 million and looks as if it will become George Clooney’s biggest film outside of “The Perfect Storm” and the “Ocean” franchise (let's all pretend that “Batman and Robin” doesn’t really exist).

In the independent sector, “A Single Man,” “Crazy Heart,” “Broken Embraces” and the Palm d’Or winner, “The White Ribbon,” all posted increases. Look for all to expand nicely once Oscar nominations are announced on February 2, 2010.

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