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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

North American box office: ‘Avatar’ is king of the world

And hardly any one heard about the Morgans:

1. Avatar: $77 million (NEW)
2. The Princess and the Frog: $12.2 million (2nd week in wide release; drops 50%)
3. The Blind Side: $10 million
4. Did You Hear About the Morgans?: $6.6 million (NEW)
5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: $4.4 million

actual numbers, not estimates
Did Avatar live up to expectations? Depends on how you frame it. It wasn’t the biggest opening ever in the history of cinema, though it was the biggest opening ever for a nonsequel, or for a movie with an original story (original as in “not based on a comic book or a novel, or remade from an older film,” that is, not as in “gee, we haven’t seen this plot at all before, have we?”). On the other hand, the inflation in ticket prices in recent years, not to mention the premium prices paid by most Avatar attendees to see the film in 3D or 3D IMAX, meant that attendance was not record-breaking. Then again, the snowstorm on the East Coast appears not to have depressed attendance as it looked like it might do: Avatar’s final numbers on Monday were up $4 million over the Sunday estimates, which means that on Sunday, it bounced back more than Saturday’s dramatically lower numbers were suggesting it would.

Worldwide, Avatar took in more than $241 million (even though snow hampered its U.K. debut, too), which is similarly the best ever for a film with no previously built-in fanbase.

Almost every other film this weekend — certainly the wide releases — suffered. The Princess and the Frog is already sinking fast, and will have a helluva time earning back its $105 million budget. Did You Hear About the Morgans? gave up before it even got started, and will all but disappear by this coming weekend. A Christmas Carol, at No. 7, dropped out of the top 5 for the first time since it opened, thanks to losing most of its 3D screens to Avatar, and in fact earned only a couple of thousand bucks more than Up in the Air, at No. 8, even though Carol was at 2,070 locations, and Air was on only 175 screens. Other than Avatar, Air is the weekend champ, outearning many other films on more than 10 times as many screens. With all the awards love it’s getting, it should do well as it expands wide this weekend.

The top per-screen averages:

1. Nine: $64,308 (on each of 4 screens)
2. Avatar: $22,313 (3,452 venues)
3. Crazy Heart: $20,666 (4 screens)
4. Up in the Air: $18,344 (175 screens)
5. A Single Man: $15,872 (9 screens)

The next two weekends should be very interesting, with films getting higher midweek takings and potentially lower weekend earnings, what with kids off from school and some adults off from work, and with nothing new at all opening over New Year’s weekend.

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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