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It's tough to be a studio releasing a new film this weekend, as all the hype is going to the holdovers, almost all of which is going to Avatar's massive box office run. None of the new releases have any real hope of making a dent in that films' box office dominance, while it is possible that none of the new releases will reach the top three over the weekend. That said, there's a chance that Avatar will make more money this weekend than the combined openings of last year's two biggest releases, while there's little doubt the year-over-year comparison will continue to impress.

By end of business today, Avatar will have made more than $380 million domestically, putting it in the top ten all time. (Meanwhile, it is already in second place worldwide.) There's little doubt that by the end of the weekend the film will become the highest grossing film released in 2009, topping Revenge of the Fallen, while 2009 will become the first year ever to have two $400 million hits. That said, with the holidays over, it could suffer a 50% drop-off, which would leave the movie with $34 million over the weekend. It will probably avoid that fate, perhaps even earning more than $40 million, but $37 million is more likely. This would lift the film's running tally to eighth place, just ahead of Spider-man and just behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It is still behind The Dark Knight's pace, as that film had more than $440 million at the same point in its run, but Avatar still has a solid shot at $500 million domestically, while its international run is second only to Titanic.

For Sherlock Holmes to have a clear path to $200 million, it will have to make $17 million this weekend. If it reaches this mark, $200 million isn't guaranteed, but it is a lot more likely. If it drops too much lower than that, then its per theater average will become an issue and a lot of theater owners will be more willing to drop it in exchange for new releases. Tracking has it missing that mark, albeit by a narrow margin, and it should earn between $15 and $16 million. This might be get it close enough to $200 million that the studio will push it over the top when the time comes.

Likewise, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel is reaching for $200 million; however, in this case it is more of a case of when and not if. Granted, Fox is still hoping to avoid a sharp decline this weekend, but their need is less urgent. Again, $15 to $16 million seems likely, which would be more than enough to ensure $200 million before long, and it might be enough to maintain pace with the original.

The biggest wide release of the week is Daybreakers, which has a shot at second place. Not a great shot, but a shot nonetheless. For an early January vampire thriller, this film has surprising star power and features Ethan Hawke, Sam Neil, Willem Dafoe, and others. Additionally, its reviews have remained strong and are currently over the overall positive level. The film could make anywhere from $12 million to $20 million this weekend and I would not be shocked in the least. I'm going to go with fourth place and $15 million, but there's a wide margin of error here.

Next up is Leap Year, which on paper has quite a bit going for it, including a very appealing star in Amy Adams. However, its reviews are far from good. In fact, they are terrible, even for romantic comedies, which tend to earn poor reviews due to their formulaic nature. It appears that there are more than a few clichés thrown around in this film, but more importantly, there's not enough comedy to qualify as a romantic comedy, at least not enough comedy that works. That said, the film has a shot at second place, if it can perform as well as Bride Wars managed last year. On the one hand, this is not an unreasonably high expectation, since the two films share a target audience and that film actually managed worse reviews. However, Leap Year is dealing with strong competition, and not just from Avatar, but also from It's Complicated and The Blind Side. It should top both those films, but it will still suffer and earn $13 million, more or less.

The final new release with a shot at the top ten is Youth in Revolt, which is opening in just under 2,000 theaters, which technically makes it semi-wide and not truly wide. Additionally, its reviews have softened from 86% positive at the beginning of the month to 68% positive now. There's more troubling aspects to deal with; for instance, the film's star, Michael Cera, is coming off the first real box office disappointment of his career and there are real questions with regard to this film's box office chances. I think the deciding factor will be the film's ad campaign, which is not good news. While the ads may be effective, especially with the target demographic, there just haven't been enough of them on TV. The lack of a major ad campaign will likely be too much for the film to survive, meaning it will place in the lower top ten with $6 million. That said, the film likely didn't cost too much to make and it should find a more receptive audience on the home market.

- C.S.Strowbridge Will New Releases Break Avatar's Hold on the Box Office? - The Numbers

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Will New Releases Break Avatar's Hold on the Box Office?

January 7th, 2010

It's tough to be a studio releasing a new film this weekend, as all the hype is going to the holdovers, almost all of which is going to Avatar's massive box office run. None of the new releases have any real hope of making a dent in that films' box office dominance, while it is possible that none of the new releases will reach the top three over the weekend. That said, there's a chance that Avatar will make more money this weekend than the combined openings of last year's two biggest releases, while there's little doubt the year-over-year comparison will continue to impress.

By end of business today, Avatar will have made more than $380 million domestically, putting it in the top ten all time. (Meanwhile, it is already in second place worldwide.) There's little doubt that by the end of the weekend the film will become the highest grossing film released in 2009, topping Revenge of the Fallen, while 2009 will become the first year ever to have two $400 million hits. That said, with the holidays over, it could suffer a 50% drop-off, which would leave the movie with $34 million over the weekend. It will probably avoid that fate, perhaps even earning more than $40 million, but $37 million is more likely. This would lift the film's running tally to eighth place, just ahead of Spider-man and just behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It is still behind The Dark Knight's pace, as that film had more than $440 million at the same point in its run, but Avatar still has a solid shot at $500 million domestically, while its international run is second only to Titanic.

For Sherlock Holmes to have a clear path to $200 million, it will have to make $17 million this weekend. If it reaches this mark, $200 million isn't guaranteed, but it is a lot more likely. If it drops too much lower than that, then its per theater average will become an issue and a lot of theater owners will be more willing to drop it in exchange for new releases. Tracking has it missing that mark, albeit by a narrow margin, and it should earn between $15 and $16 million. This might be get it close enough to $200 million that the studio will push it over the top when the time comes.

Likewise, Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel is reaching for $200 million; however, in this case it is more of a case of when and not if. Granted, Fox is still hoping to avoid a sharp decline this weekend, but their need is less urgent. Again, $15 to $16 million seems likely, which would be more than enough to ensure $200 million before long, and it might be enough to maintain pace with the original.

The biggest wide release of the week is Daybreakers, which has a shot at second place. Not a great shot, but a shot nonetheless. For an early January vampire thriller, this film has surprising star power and features Ethan Hawke, Sam Neil, Willem Dafoe, and others. Additionally, its reviews have remained strong and are currently over the overall positive level. The film could make anywhere from $12 million to $20 million this weekend and I would not be shocked in the least. I'm going to go with fourth place and $15 million, but there's a wide margin of error here.

Next up is Leap Year, which on paper has quite a bit going for it, including a very appealing star in Amy Adams. However, its reviews are far from good. In fact, they are terrible, even for romantic comedies, which tend to earn poor reviews due to their formulaic nature. It appears that there are more than a few clichés thrown around in this film, but more importantly, there's not enough comedy to qualify as a romantic comedy, at least not enough comedy that works. That said, the film has a shot at second place, if it can perform as well as Bride Wars managed last year. On the one hand, this is not an unreasonably high expectation, since the two films share a target audience and that film actually managed worse reviews. However, Leap Year is dealing with strong competition, and not just from Avatar, but also from It's Complicated and The Blind Side. It should top both those films, but it will still suffer and earn $13 million, more or less.

The final new release with a shot at the top ten is Youth in Revolt, which is opening in just under 2,000 theaters, which technically makes it semi-wide and not truly wide. Additionally, its reviews have softened from 86% positive at the beginning of the month to 68% positive now. There's more troubling aspects to deal with; for instance, the film's star, Michael Cera, is coming off the first real box office disappointment of his career and there are real questions with regard to this film's box office chances. I think the deciding factor will be the film's ad campaign, which is not good news. While the ads may be effective, especially with the target demographic, there just haven't been enough of them on TV. The lack of a major ad campaign will likely be too much for the film to survive, meaning it will place in the lower top ten with $6 million. That said, the film likely didn't cost too much to make and it should find a more receptive audience on the home market.

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Filed under: Alvin and the Chipmunks, Daybreakers, Youth in Revolt, Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Leap Year