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Any Oscar Bounce for Avatar?

February 4th, 2010

It appears Avatar will walk away with yet another victory at the box office and it appears likely that it will set yet another record in the process. There are some factors that make the box office potential of all films a little more fluid this weekend. This includes the Super Bowl, which should draw away a lot of potential ticket buyers. Secondly, the Oscar nominations should help Avatar and a few other holdovers still playing in multiplexes. Depending on which factor is greater, we could keep pace with last year, or the slump could continue.

After picking up nine Oscar nominations and then becoming the highest grossing film of all time in North America, Avatar looks to add one more win and yet another record to its list of accomplishments this weekend. It appears the former is more likely than the latter, as analysts are predicting between $22 and $28 million. If it finishes on the low end, Titanic will retain its record for biggest eight weekend of release. That said, $24 million and sneaking off with yet another record is the most likely scenario. On the other hand, I think biggest ninth weekend of release is absolutely out of reach for Avatar.

Playing counter-programming to the Super Bowl is Dear John, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Like most of the rest of the films based on his novels, this one is earning terrible reviews with many of the positive reviews complaining that the film is only mildly engaging, overly sappy, and not substantive. Negative reviews are a little more blunt with some calling it an emotionally manipulative tearjearker without the emotional weight to be effective. That said, the reviews are not that much weaker than Nicholas Sparks's average and with a couple of rising stars in the lead, it could be a surprise hit at the box office. On the high end, it could reach $25 million and take top spot. On the low end, it could have trouble earning half that landing in third place. $18 million and second place is probably the safest bet.

The only other wide release of the week is From Paris With Love, which is actually earning better reviews than Dear John. Not good reviews, mind you, but better. There are some issues, including the competition from the Super Bowl and Edge of Darkness, both of which share the same target demographic. Also, John Travolta appears to be in yet another box office slump with both of his 2009 releases missing expectations (and expectations were not that high in either case). Consensus has this film placing third with $13 million or so, but there's a lot of uncertainty here. Perhaps it can come close to $20 million, or it might miss $10 million.

Edge of Darkness has to deal with direct competition, both at the movie theaters and from the Super Bowl, as well as some interviews by Mel Gibson that have been... unfortunate. Apparently he has decided that now is a good time to start pretending there was no controversy that arose as the result of a DUI arrest in 2006 and anyone bringing it up must, "have a dog in this fight" or is simply an "asshole." I think most PR experts would agree that this is not the smart way to recover from a controversy. How this will affect the movie is hard to predict, but dipping just below $10 million over the weekend seems likely.

Up next should be When in Rome, which as a romantic comedy should hold on slightly better than its reviews would otherwise indicate. Dear John might take a slice out of its box office, but the Super Bowl will have a minimal effect. On the high end, it could make more than $9 million and sneak into fourth place. On the low end, it could fail to reach the top five with under $7 million. The lower end is more likely, which means The Tooth Fairy has a shot at another weekend in the top five.

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Filed under: From Paris With Love, The Tooth Fairy, Edge of Darkness, When in Rome, Avatar, Dear John