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Box Office: 'Avatar' almost beats 'Titanic' mark with $27 million opening day

Will weather hamper blockbuster's opening weekend?

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"Avatar" didn't have a record breaking opening on Friday, but 20th Century Fox will take the 3-D epic's $27 million massive gross.  Especially considering the nasty weather that hit the midwest and northeast and the fact that its the last full shopping weekend before Christmas.  Are those excuses for not coming anywhere near  "The Twilight Saga: New Moon's" $72 million or "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen's" $62 million or "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince's" $58 million opening days?   Well, maybe, but it beat "Star Trek" ($26.8 million) "Up" ($21 million) and "The Hangover" ($16 million), all films that cleared $250 million domestically this year.  And that's the company "Avatar" wants or even needs to be in to become profitable down the road.

One opening "Avatar" did beat was for director James Cameron's last picture, a little film called "Titanic."  Debuting almost 12 years ago to the day on Dec 19, 1997, "Titanic" made $28 million for its entire weekend.  Even with higher ticket prices, "Avatar" almost beat that in one day.  Of course, "Titanic" became a cultural phenomenon that grossed over $1.8 billion world wide. Will history repeat itself?  The verdict is still out on that one.

Overall, it's unclear how the weather will affect the critically acclaimed film's final weekend take, but a 3-day cume between $75-85 million is likely.  How "Avatar" will deal with "Sherlock Holmes" and other holiday competition opening on Christmas day is another question entirely.

Still playing strong in the second slot was Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" with $3.4 million.  The Golden Globe nominee for Best Animated Feature has a new total of $35.9 million and should gross between  $9-11 million over the weekend.  However, it has big competition for the family dollar coming up when "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" hits theaters on Wednesday.

Finding more buzz after Sandra Bullock's Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for Best Actress was the melodrama sensation "The Blind Side."  The true life story punted for $3.2 million on Friday and a new overall score of $157.9 million.  "Side" could easily hit $200 million by the end of the Christmas weekend. That deserves a "wow."

Less impressive?  After the successful runs of "Michael Jackson's This Is It" and "2012," Sony Pictures has its second bomb in a row with "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"  The Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker "comedy" was rushed into theaters when significant reshoots were probably needed to a dismal $2.3 million Friday.  At best, the rom com could find $7.5-8 million over the weekend.  Why Sony stayed on the "Avatar" date is mind boggling.  Perhaps they secretly wanted to be overshadowed so people would quickly forget how bad "Morgans" really is?

In fifth place, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" beat Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" with another  $1.4  million for a new total of $271.6 million.  With "Moon" losing theaters as time goes on to newer films the long term prospects of hitting the $300 million mark become more and more unlikely.  Ah, a goal for "Eclipse."

Look for final box office weekend estimates tomorrow on HitFix.

Greg-ellwood-sm
Gregory Ellwood
Editor-in-Chief, Co-Founder
With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.
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