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There are two wide releases this weekend, but mostly everyone is just talking about Avatar, its box office potential, and its obvious comparisons to Titanic. It should have no trouble beating the combined $43 million made by all three wide releases this weekend last year, and will almost certainly make more during its opening weekend than the $53 million that Titanic made during its opening week. And that's the low end of expectations. On the high end, it has a number of records in its sights.

Avatar is James Cameron's first fictional film since Titanic. That alone means it has been eagerly awaited for a long time. The groundbreaking use of technology has further raised expectations. It does appear, based on the film's reviews, its strong performance in end-of-year top ten lists, and some early nominations and awards, that Avatar may at least come close to living up to the hype. And, because the film was shot in 3D, properly equipped theaters will be able to charge a premium for tickets, which will help the bottom line. Direct comparisons to Titanic's box office performance are meaningless this early in its run; if it doesn't earn as much during its opening weekend ($28.6 million), then it is an unmitigated bomb. The minimum it could earn and still have a shot at breaking even is $50 million, and even so, it would have to have phenomenal legs, be a fantastic performer internationally, and have a strong home market run. Fortunately, there are few analysts that think the film will make less than $60 million over the next three days. In fact, the over / under seems to be $70 million, and beating I Am Legend's $77.2 million December weekend record is a possibility. That's a little too bullish for me, but second place with $73 million is not.

The Princess and the Frog did not blow away analysts during its opening weekend, but it could score a solid hold this weekend, which would put it in an excellent position going into the Christmas break. A sub-30% drop-off is possible, which would leave the film with $17 million over the weekend and a total of almost $50 million. At that pace, and with Christmas coming up, it should have no trouble reaching $100 million in total and become one of a record class of $100 million movies released in 2009.

Playing counter-programming this weekend is Did You Hear About the Morgans?, a romantic comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. In the movie, they play a couple whose relationship has hit the rocks and they are thinking of calling it quits. Then, they witness a murder and have to spend time in Wyoming under the guard of the Witness Protection Agency. It's is a bit of a high concept comedy, which could give it opportunities to stand out, but one look at the trailer and you can tell that it will be awash in culture clash clichés. This is especially not good, since its genre is already particularly high in clichés. So with expectations set rather low, the Tomatometer Score still managed to undershoot them with a tally of just 11% at the moment. Granted, that won't leave it amongst the worst films of the year, but it is close. And even with a genre that is forgiving when it comes to critics' opinions, this will hurt it. It could still grab second place with close to $20 million, but third place with $13 million is far more likely.

Further down the list we come to The Blind Side, which should add about $10 million over the weekend and around $165 million after a month in release. This would make it Sandra Bullock's biggest hit ever, while $200 million in total would remain a possibility.

There should be quite a battle for fifth place between Invictus, Disney's A Christmas Carol, and New Moon. All three films should earn $5 million over the weekend, more or less, and will likely finish in that order.

- C.S.Strowbridge Weekend Preview: Will it be a Date for Avatar? - The Numbers

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Weekend Preview: Will it be a Date for Avatar?

December 17th, 2009

There are two wide releases this weekend, but mostly everyone is just talking about Avatar, its box office potential, and its obvious comparisons to Titanic. It should have no trouble beating the combined $43 million made by all three wide releases this weekend last year, and will almost certainly make more during its opening weekend than the $53 million that Titanic made during its opening week. And that's the low end of expectations. On the high end, it has a number of records in its sights.

Avatar is James Cameron's first fictional film since Titanic. That alone means it has been eagerly awaited for a long time. The groundbreaking use of technology has further raised expectations. It does appear, based on the film's reviews, its strong performance in end-of-year top ten lists, and some early nominations and awards, that Avatar may at least come close to living up to the hype. And, because the film was shot in 3D, properly equipped theaters will be able to charge a premium for tickets, which will help the bottom line. Direct comparisons to Titanic's box office performance are meaningless this early in its run; if it doesn't earn as much during its opening weekend ($28.6 million), then it is an unmitigated bomb. The minimum it could earn and still have a shot at breaking even is $50 million, and even so, it would have to have phenomenal legs, be a fantastic performer internationally, and have a strong home market run. Fortunately, there are few analysts that think the film will make less than $60 million over the next three days. In fact, the over / under seems to be $70 million, and beating I Am Legend's $77.2 million December weekend record is a possibility. That's a little too bullish for me, but second place with $73 million is not.

The Princess and the Frog did not blow away analysts during its opening weekend, but it could score a solid hold this weekend, which would put it in an excellent position going into the Christmas break. A sub-30% drop-off is possible, which would leave the film with $17 million over the weekend and a total of almost $50 million. At that pace, and with Christmas coming up, it should have no trouble reaching $100 million in total and become one of a record class of $100 million movies released in 2009.

Playing counter-programming this weekend is Did You Hear About the Morgans?, a romantic comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. In the movie, they play a couple whose relationship has hit the rocks and they are thinking of calling it quits. Then, they witness a murder and have to spend time in Wyoming under the guard of the Witness Protection Agency. It's is a bit of a high concept comedy, which could give it opportunities to stand out, but one look at the trailer and you can tell that it will be awash in culture clash clichés. This is especially not good, since its genre is already particularly high in clichés. So with expectations set rather low, the Tomatometer Score still managed to undershoot them with a tally of just 11% at the moment. Granted, that won't leave it amongst the worst films of the year, but it is close. And even with a genre that is forgiving when it comes to critics' opinions, this will hurt it. It could still grab second place with close to $20 million, but third place with $13 million is far more likely.

Further down the list we come to The Blind Side, which should add about $10 million over the weekend and around $165 million after a month in release. This would make it Sandra Bullock's biggest hit ever, while $200 million in total would remain a possibility.

There should be quite a battle for fifth place between Invictus, Disney's A Christmas Carol, and New Moon. All three films should earn $5 million over the weekend, more or less, and will likely finish in that order.

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Filed under: The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, The Blind Side, Invictus, Disney's A Christmas Carol, Avatar, The Princess and the Frog