Christmas Jackpot For Sherlock Holmes, Avatar, and Fox
By John Hamann
December 27, 2009
Second spot goes to Robert Downey Jr. and Sherlock Holmes, and just because Sherlock finished second, there is no bad news for the Guy Ritchie film. Sherlock Holmes was the number one film on Christmas Day, eclipsing Avatar by about $1.4 million, as it earned $24.9 million compared to Avatar's $23.5 million. As the weekend wore on, though, Avatar's increased ticket prices due to 3-D viewings made the difference, as Sherlock finished the weekend with a very strong $65.4 million. Warner Bros. opened the great detective story on 3,626 venues, and the film earned a screen average of $18,031.Sherlock Holmes is playing much bigger than Meet The Parents/Fockers, and is runner up to only Avatar in terms of Christmas dominance. For a non-sequel, this is an extremely impressive debut, and will generate sequels and imitators faster than you can say Iron Man.
From 1980 until February of 2008, Robert Downey Jr. starred in over 40 films. None of them earned $100 million domestically. Surprisingly, the most successful film he was in during this period was the Rodney Dangerfield classic, Back to School - and let's be honest - he was not any portion of the draw in it. With the release of Sherlock Holmes exploding into theaters, this will be his third $100+ million movie in a year and a half after not having one for the first 28 years of his career. His resurgence started on May 2, 2008, when Iron Man opened to a staggering $102 million, before going on to earn $318 million domestically, and almost $600 million worldwide. After a fantastic cameo in The Incredible Hulk as Tony Stark, he appeared in Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder, which earned the actor an Oscar nomination, and earned Paramount $110 million at the box office. Now the actor has a new franchise with Sherlock Holmes, and will be back in theaters in May of 2010 in Iron Man 2. If Holmes has legs, Downey could conceivably be in three $300 million pictures within two years of release of one another.
So why the big turnout for Holmes? Other than fantastic scheduling at work again, Holmes did it the hard way. This is a good movie that people seem to love; it had a fantastic trailer and marketing campaign, and a star that people are really getting behind, a la Harrison Ford in the 1980s. RottenTomatoes posted 135 reviews for Holmes, and 94 were positive, leaving this one with a solid 70% fresh rating. This wouldn't have been easy – Guy Ritchie is not a director critics love (remember, they had to sit through Swept Away and Revolver), on top of that, this is a historic character that the British treat like royalty, who some think shouldn't be messed with more than Hugh Laurie does with House. Add to that the fact that many don't see Holmes dancing around explosions and being what seems to be an action hero type role, so to escape general negative criticism is a big deal. Suffice it to say that Sherlock Holmes has overcome a lot of roadblocks to be successful. It will out-gross its production budget ($80 million) after four or five days of release, something that Avatar can't brag about after ten days of release.