Can the third biggest opening ever in December be disappointing? When you figure the strong reviews, positive word of mouth and expensive 3-D tickets maybe. James Cameron's "Avatar" found $73 million for its opening weekend which places it behind "I Am Legend's" $77 million opening and just ahead of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's" $72 million debut.
Most surprisingly, "Avatar" dropped Friday to Saturday 5% while the second and third slots this week, "The Princess and the Frog" and "The Blind Side" both had more than a 5% increase. So, was the bad weather that hammered the Northeast really a factor in the decline or is the film not playing as four quadrant as industry experts assumed? We'll find out as "Avatar" takes on "Sherlock Holmes" and a furry of other new releases on Christmas day.
Happily for Fox though, "Avatar" killed overseas with a superb $159 million. That's just below "2012's" worldwide debut last month and that blockbuster has made over $600 million outside the U.S. There is no reason to doubt Cameron's latest won't do the same.
"Frog" was down a disappointing 49% overall compared to its opening for just $12.2 million. Families (i.e, moms) are usually very busy over the last holiday shopping weekend of the season, but the hand-drawn animated tale is going to have some big competition later this week when "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" hits theaters. "Frog" has grossed $44.7 million to date.
Continuing it's steady holds, "The Blind Side" rode more buzz off Sandra Bullock's Golden Globe and SAG Award Best Actress nominations to another $10 million and a new total of $164 million.
Debuting in a forgettable fourth was "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" with only $7 million. The rom com is one of Hugh Grant's worst openings this decade and may prove his starpower is on the wane (although it would help if he worked a bit more).
Fifth place found "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" sucking another $4.3 million from fans for a new total of $274.5 million to date.
In terms of limited releases, even after the incredibly harsh reviews "Nine" did a more than solid $247,000 and $61,500 per screen in four theaters over the three day. That's hardly record breaking, but considering one of those theaters was in snowy New York, The Weinstein Company is no doubt relieved the hardcore musical fans came out in the crazy weather to check out the $80 million worth of stars on parade in Rob Marshall's latest. "Nine" is expected to go close to nationwide on Christmas day, but the exact theater count is unclear.
Doing solid, but not spectacular business is Fox Searchlight's "Crazy Heart" with $84,000 in four theaters for a $21,000 per screen average. Since opening on Wednesday the acclaimed Jeff Bridges drama has made $110,000.
Much scarier was "Young Victoria's" tepid $148,000 on 20 screens for just a $7,400 average. Apparition is planning on expanding the period drama this January, but one has to wonder if this will affect their long term plans. The United States is one of the last territories for the Brit flick which has already grossed more than $12 million worldwide.
Among other Oscar contending releases, Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" added 103 theaters for a new total of 175 and grossed $3.1 million for a $17,714 average. "Air" has grossed $8.1 million to date. Like "Nine" it is also expected to jump nationwide on Christmas day.
Final weekend estimates are released on Monday. It will be curious to see how the weather affects these expected results.