Avatar Passes Titanic

By David Mumpower

February 3, 2010

I know we're just fictional CGI characters, but shouldn't we ask for a raise?

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While I had no choice but to use The Prince of Egypt for comparison since this particular holiday calendar configuration hadn't happened in 11 years, I never in a million years anticipated that Avatar would behave similarly. To wit, The Prince of Egypt debuted to a modest $14,524,321 but wound up with a domestic tally of $101,413,188. Given the timeframe, this performance was not as impressive as Journey to the Center of the Earth's similar behavior in 2008, but it was still a noteworthy form of box office behavior. Films that open to $14.5 million are not supposed to cross the $100 million barrier, much less possess final box office multipliers (final box office divided by opening weekend) of right at 7. Were Avatar to mimic such behavior, that opening weekend of $77.0 million would lead to final domestic box office of $539 million, a box office performance even beyond the huge story of 2008, The Dark Knight. You see where I'm going with this...

Yes, a model I used in my analysis that I considered not just the best case scenario for Avatar but even a little bit beyond that proved insufficient for my purposes. As we speak, Avatar's running total of $601,141,551 reflects a current final box office multiplier of 7.8, a full 11% better than a family friendly holiday movie from a better box office era in terms of legs. And Avatar is far from finished. In fact, given it is the recipient of nine Academy Awards nominations, its final box office tally is still a source of speculation. At this point, it has overmatched any and all early expectations along the way to becoming the alpha dog in box office discussions.


One of our infrequent but well considered feedback posters made a comment yesterday that one of the facts we haven't mentioned in our constant onslaught of Avatar discussion over the past six weeks - and for the record, I fully appreciate that with four updates a week that have discussed it, some of you are tired of the conversation...it's the elephant in the living room even if some of you are feeling over-saturated - we haven't mentioned a couple of tidbits he felt merited identification. He points out that Avatar has been number one for 44 of the 47 days it needed to become the biggest film of all time. He is right that the film finished in second place on December 23 and December 25, 2009, losing to the Squeakquel and Sherlock Holmes, respectively, on those days. The only January 2010 day Avatar failed to win was on January 15th, the debut of The Book of Eli. Avatar's losses on those three days were by $1.4 million, $1.5 million and $1.3 million. That's how close it has come to 47 straight perfect days of box office. Amazingly enough, while this is again a case of history repeating itself, Titanic blows Avatar out of the water in this regard. The shipwreck film didn't finish out of first place until its 78th (!) day in theaters...and that's not a typo.

While debate will continue for some time about how to quantify the box office performance of Avatar due to its higher ticket price costs, the reality is that such discussions, while thoroughly entertaining, are irrelevant to the bottom line. This is a goal-oriented industry and the goal is to make the most money. Only one film has earned over $601 million domestically, and that film is the new champion of the box office realm. In the coming days, BOP will continue to compile interesting facts and tidbits about its record-obliterating pace. Feel free to drop us a note if you want to offer any you feel are relevant.

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