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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

North American box office: ‘Avatar’ ‘Avatar’ ‘Avatar’

Biggest. New Year’s weekend. Evah:

1. Avatar: $68.5 million (3rd week; drops 9%)
2. Sherlock Holmes: $36.6 million (2nd week; drops 41%)
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: $35.2 million (2nd week; drops 28%)
4. It’s Complicated: $18.8 million (2nd week; drops 15%)
5. The Blind Side: $11.95 million

actual numbers, not estimates
Once the weekend actuals were in, Sherlock Holmes (estimated: $38.3 million) and Alvin 2 (estimated: $36.6 million) turned out not to have done as well as anticipated. But it’s all relative. This was still the highest-grossing New Year’s weekend ever, with the biggest drop — for Holmes — still quite modest; most films barely dropped at all. And two films in the top 10 were up: The Blind Side, up more than three percent in its seventh week, and The Princess and the Frog, up nine percent in its sixth week.

Not only was this past weekend huge, the week in between Christmas and New Year’s was enormous, too. Between Monday and Thursday before New Year’s alone, Avatar added $70 million to its coffers; it’s now over $352 million in North America (and over $1 billion worldwide); Alvin 2 added more than $43 million (more than $155 million cumulative in North America); Holmes added more than $38 million (to more than $138 million cume in North America). Those are astonishing numbers. And The Blind Side passed $200 million this past weekend, which is just plain ridiculous for a sports drama.

Small films did exceeding well, too. Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus enjoyed the best per-screen average of the weekend: $31,909 on each of four screens. Second was — amazingly — the IMAX flick Magnificent Desolation (which has been on DVD for years, though not in IMAX, of course), at $29,348 on each of two screens. Next was The Lovely Bones — $21,559 on each of three screens — and the new German release The White Ribbon, with $19,949 on each of three screens. (Avatar was close behind, with $19,789 at each of its 3,461 locations.

Is it all an indication of Great Depression II sending people to the multiplex to escape, and if so, will this trend of killer box office continue through 2010? Or is it just the coincidence of Christmas and New Year’s — always big moviegoing days anyway — falling on weekends themselves? It’s gonna be fun watching and interpreting the box office this year, I think…

[numbers via Box Office Mojo]

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