Weekend Wrap-Up

Avatar Repels Mel Gibson's Darkness

By John Hamann

January 31, 2010

Two manly men share a vulnerable moment.

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Another weekend, another win for Avatar. With mostly soft new releases hitting screens in January, it's been fairly easy for Avatar to repeat at number one for what is now a six-weekend streak at the box office. The juggernaut that is Avatar now looks to cross Titanic's domestic box office record as early as sometime this week, and it took down the biggest foreign total over this previous week. The question is no longer when will it beat the domestic record; it is by how much. Avatar's bowling pins this weekend included Mel Gibson's return to acting in Edge of Darkness and the romantic comedy When In Rome.

Our number one film of the weekend is (again) Avatar. For seven straight weekends, Avatar has owned the box office, as it wins the weekend again with a gross of $30 million. The James Cameron space epic fell only 14% compared to last week, equivalent to its average drop heading into the weekend. Over the weekends since opening, Avatar has dropped 2%, 9%, 27%, 15%, 18% and now 14%. Considering the strength of the grosses for Avatar over the last seven weekends, these holds are really incredible. Films are marketed as "one and done", meaning the aim is to have one big weekend, and then coast to home video. When a film opens to $77 million like Avatar did, one and done would normally be enough, as the film is likely to gross more than $200 million domestically. Avatar now looks to be finishing with approximately $700 million on the domestic front, or more than nine times that opening weekend. Had The Dark Knight grossed nine times its opening weekend, the domestic take would have been $1.425 billion. Avatar still has four more weekends after this one before it loses its 3-D screens to Alice in Wonderland on March 5th and starts to see some serious declines. It also has the President's/Valentine's Day frame over the February 12th -14th weekend. It's that weekend that Avatar will get its first real taste of some juicy competition, in the form of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and The Wolfman, both of which open over the long weekend. At this point, I have Avatar finishing with about $680 million, but that's without an Oscar bump and a potential re-release. Currently, Avatar has an amazing $594.5 million on the domestic front, and an international total approaching $2 billion.


Finishing second is Edge of Darkness, Mel Gibson's return to theatrical acting, his first since 2002's Signs. With a fanbase that either no longer cares about the actor, or even downright doesn't like him anymore, Edge of Darkness still did okay at the box office, considering. Edge of Darkness earned $17.1 million from 3,066 venues, and had a venue average of $5,584. Considering that Gibson hasn't been seen in more than awhile, and the fact that this one is living in the shadow of Avatar, this debut can't be considered a disaster. Sure, this is Gibson's lowest opening total since Braveheart debuted with $12.9 million in May 1995, but this isn't going to hurt Warner Bros., who picked up the domestic rights from GK Films, Mel's Icon Productions, and BBC Films for $29 million. That's not a bad pickup, as Edge will likely not fall as fast as films like Daybreakers or Legion, and could earn as much as $50 million, which I assume would cover those pickup costs as well as some prints and marketing. One of the issues Edge of Darkness may have is conquering so-so word of mouth. The thriller was split with critics, as it came in at 56% fresh at RottenTomatoes, with 64 positive reviews out of a possible 115. Next up for Gibson is Jodie Foster's The Beaver, about a guy who wears a beaver puppet on his hand and treats it as a real person (Mr. Gibson equals Mr. Garrison?).

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