Weekend Wrap-Up

Game Changer Avatar Breaks Few Records at the Box Office

By John Hamann

December 20, 2009

I always feel like somebody's watching me.

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Reviews and legs will be Avatar's story, and so far, things are looking pretty good. Avatar currently has 162 positive and only 35 negative reviews, which means a certified fresh rating of 82%. Top critics liked it even more, giving it a 94% fresh rating, and users of the site (and the real core of word-of-mouth) rate it at 88% fresh. With new films rolling out with worse scores, Avatar's biggest competition is going to be Sherlock Holmes on Christmas Day. Avatar has the 3-D world pretty much to itself (A Christmas Carol has been evicted), and young audiences tied up until at least the middle of January when Youth in Revolt or The Book of Eli open. Its also no question as to how successful Avatar is going to be overseas. Remember that Titanic earned double what it did domestically, and could even be more akin to a film like Roland Emmerich's 2012, which has earned a so-so $157 million domestically, and $560 million overseas. There is no doubt in my mind that Avatar will gross at least $750 million worldwide. The "reported" budget has Avatar at $230 million, not including prints or marketing, but some have said that budget figure is actually more like $300 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made.

Finishing second this weekend is last weekend's champ, The Princess and the Frog, which is almost the direct opposite of Avatar. The old-school Princess opened last weekend with an under-whelming $24.2 million, and the news doesn't get much better this weekend. In its second frame, The Princess and the Frog brought in only $12.2 million, which gives the Disney flick a nasty drop of 50%. Usually, kids' flicks hold well in general, but are usually more likely to hold well in December than any other time of the year. Take for example the truly awful Alvin and the Chipmunks. Alvin and company opened on December 14, 2007 to $44.3 million and dipped only 36% in its second weekend to $28.2 million. Even the unloved Charlotte's Web, which opened to only $11.5 million, still held in its second weekend, dipping 34%, and it had Christmas Eve to contend with in its second weekend. We now know that Disney's experiment in the land of 2-D is a failure, and their film is going to be extremely lucky to earn $100 million (especially with Alvin 2 on its way). Currently, The Princess and the Frog has earned $44.8 million.


Third spot goes to The Blind Side, which is now not only a critical and commercial success, it's also a Golden Globe nominee. Now in its fifth weekend, the Sandra Bullock sports movie earned another $10 million, and drops a not bad 33%. With Christmas now on our doorsteps, I expect The Blind Side to have a really good couple of weeks, as this is a strong, feel good American drama. The Blind Side could be a top five or six movie on Christmas Day, which would be a huge win for Alcon and Warner Bros., as this one was released November 20th. Give The Blind Side a running total of $164.7 million, and a very strong shot at $200 million. The Blind Side has tapped the American consciousness unlike any film in a long, long time.

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