The 12 Days of Box Office
By David Mumpower
December 31, 2009

Downey makes even gloomy old London apparel work.

The highlight of yesterday's box office is that the number one film, Avatar, surpasses Star Trek's $257.7 million total to become one of the five most successful releases of 2009. Its running tally of $268.9 million means it will dart ahead of The Hangover and New Moon the fourth biggest earner of 2009 by the time you read this.

Avatar will also beat Up and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by the close of business Saturday to become the #2 release of 2009. It is also all but certain at this point to gain the other $100 million needed to surpass Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to become the ultimate winner of 2009 domestically. It is a mortal lock to do so in terms of worldwide revenue, as it has roughly $700 million already in the bank, needing only $235 million more to catch Half-Blood Prince's current leading tally of $934 million.

By the end of the first quarter of 2010, there will be exactly five films that have ever earned a billion dollars worldwide. James Cameron will have made two of them. $1.133 billion is the line of demarcation Avatar faces in order to surpass The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to become the single most popular film in global box office history. Right now, I think it's 80% likely that Cameron winds up with the two biggest worldwide releases ever. Just think: six weeks ago, a ton of BOP readers thought it was nuts to believe this title could earn as much as $250 million domestically. It's amazing how quickly these things can change during the holiday box office period. Avatar went from a strong opening weekend to a record scorching pace in less than ten days.

In terms of where Avatar goes from here, I'm going to hold off on this analysis until next Tuesday's 12 Days of Box Office recap column. It's New Year's Eve and I don't want to be weighing you down with a ton of math and stats when you're ready to get the champagne flowing. So, have a nice evening and a great New Year's Day full of bowl games.

Combined top box office for the top 12 yesterday was around $57.3 million (including Did You Hear about the Morgans, which didn't have confirmed numbers when I made the chart). I had a concluding paragraph about this yesterday that the database lost. The gist of it was that Tuesday's top 12 combined box office tally was $58,242,820. So, we're down about 1.7% on Wednesday. What is remarkable about these massive numbers is that last Tuesday and Wednesday had top 12 box office totals of $28.0 million and $46.4 million, respectively. We are up a full $41.1 million, an average of over $20 million a day, from last week.

BOP always discusses the expanding box office pie and how the popularity of one title doesn't infringe on the potential appeal of others. This is a perfect example of such behavior. All of the releases from last week that didn't have Christmas in the title are up from last week save for the one that debuted last Wednesday, The Squeakquel. This is despite several new high profile titles such as Sherlock Holmes and It's Complicated being added into the marketplace. At this time of year, movie releases are not an either/or proposition. Consumers can pick and choose whichever ones appeal to them.