Weekend Wrap-Up

Christmas Jackpot For Sherlock Holmes, Avatar, and Fox

By John Hamann

December 27, 2009

The boys are informed that Avatar beat them. Holmes is taking it better than Watson.

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Avatar is the number one film of the weekend, and its second weekend take is breathtaking. The record for the biggest second weekend ever belongs to the one and only Dark Knight, which took in $75.2 million in its second frame in July 2008. Avatar fell just short of that this weekend, bringing in an amazing $75 million from 3,456 venues (The Dark Knight was in 4,366 venues), but the record may fall when actuals are released tomorrow. Avatar was pretty much even with its opening weekend business, as it dropped only 3%, another absolutely stunning fact, partially due to how the calendar fell this year. The folks at Fox deserve an award for scheduling Avatar to open the weekend prior to Christmas, and over a year when Christmas fell on a Friday. As Tim Briody reported yesterday, Avatar grossed $23.5 million on Christmas Day, finishing second behind the also incredibly strong Sherlock Holmes. We at BOP then had a very long discussion about how this would extrapolate over the rest of the weekend.

Christmas Day has notoriously been the busiest movie-going day of the year, with the top ten on Friday bringing in a remarkable $83.6 million, or approximately double what the top ten films brought in last weekend, when Avatar opened. Usually, box office starts strong on Friday, peaks on Saturday, and falls off on Sunday. Holdover and family films tend to have even stronger Saturdays as there is no pent up urge to see films on opening day, as they have already been in release for a week. The question was whether Avatar could increase its gross on Saturday from Friday, and the answer was that it did. The Saturday gross for the 3-D space epic came in at $28.6 million, which means the Sunday gross has been estimated at $22.9 million. The weekend multiplier for Avatar finished at 3.2, and was very strong considering the big holiday on Friday.


So does this mean that Avatar equals Titanic? It is still highly doubtful that Avatar can charm the teen girls like Leo DiCaprio and Titanic did; however, similarities are already forming. Titanic and Avatar basically opened on the same weekend, a dozen years apart. Titanic earned $28.6 million over its opening weekend, but unlike Avatar, increased its take in the second weekend by 24%, earning $35.5 million from December 26th - 28th. The difference here is the breadth of release, and how movie-going patterns have changed. Titanic was a slow build with a small opening, that benefited from big legs and award considerations. It took Titanic nine days to earn what Avatar did in three days, and the sinking boat story 29 days to earn what Avatar has done in ten days. While the numbers are smaller, the pattern is remarkably similar, so at this point I'm expecting a somewhat flat frame for Avatar next weekend. It crossed the $200 million mark on Sunday, its tenth day of release, and could conceivably earn $300 million by the end of next weekend. Currently, the blue man film has earned a fantastic $212.3 million after only ten days of release on the domestic front, and has crossed $400 million from overseas grosses. Avatar is quickly becoming the box office story of 2009, eclipsing any headline that the uber-opening Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or The Twilight Saga: New Moon might have earned.

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