The post-apocalyptic thriller gave Washington his second best opening Friday after "American Gangster" with a strong $11.7 million. That's pretty impressive considering "Eli's" R-rating and the competition from "Avatar." The Hughes Brothers' latest looks like it will do anywhere from $40-45 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Day weekend which means recouping its reported $80 million budget should be an easy task. In fact, "Eli's" expected success along with "The Blind Side's" massive box office take makes longtime background player Alcon Entertainment the industry's brightest star at the moment (someone might need a raise over there).
As for "Avatar," don't cry for Jim Cameron's epic blockbuster. The PG-13 picture still made $10.4 million on Friday and could still make a comeback opposite "Eli" when all is said and done. The Oscar contender's current domestic take is a staggering $460.9 million as it sets "Titanic's" record $600 million tally within its sights.
Among other releases, Paramount Pictures expanded "The Lovely Bones" to a disappointing $5.7 million after opening in limited release last month. Peter Jackson's thriller was expected to be an awards contender, but it just didn't click with the industry and fans of the best selling book did not show up in droves for its national release. After testing showed strong interest from young girls, Paramount decided to tailor the campaign toward that demographic. Did they make a mistake not selling it as a Mark Wahlberg thriller first? Would it have helped if Wahlberg did more publicity for the picture? Questions all worth pondering on the Melrose lot.
"Sherlock Holmes" is still doing good business after a huge Christmas opening. The Robert Downey, Jr. hit found another $2.8 million for a new cume of $173 million. $200 million and official word on a sequel appear right around the corner.
Jackie Chan's "The Spy Next Door" had initially showed strong potential in industry tracking, but fell flat when it hit theaters. The kids flick did only $2.4 million -- a tie with "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" -- and should tally $10 million or so after the holiday weekend, at best.
Look for complete box office weekend estimates tomorrow on HitFix.