Updated 3:30 PM PST: "Avatar" made $3.5 million from it's midnight showings and is expected to make over $70 million this weekend.

Original report: Perhaps the critical reviews and massive buzz hasn't caught up to moviegoers yet?  That is most likely the reason James Cameron's "Avatar" only opened unofficially to $3 million from midnight showings last night. 

20th Century Fox is not commenting on the gross yet, but is expected to release an official estimate in that range later today.

The current record holder for midnight openings is last month's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" which found $26.7 million from it's opening night.  Unlike that broad debut, however, "Avatar" was in only about 2,000 screens at midnight most of which were 3-D.  With a domestic theater count of 3,400 "Avatar's" overall Friday gross should be much higher. 

Critic's have given "Avatar" a ringing endorsement and the film has gone from being perceived as Cameron's folly to possible best picture winner.  Fox did not actively market the midnight screenings, but is it possible the expected strong word of mouth hasn't reached potential audiences yet in this busy holiday season?  It will make for an interesting few days of box office watching to say the least.

Look for the latest box office updates all weekend long on HitFix.