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An Iceberg Named Avatar

February 2nd, 2010

It was a good new / bad news weekend at the box office. On the one hand, Avatar continued to set records and that helped 2010 start with the highest-grossing January of all time. On the other hand, new releases continue to under-perform, leading the overall box office to slump to $125 million. That was 13% lower than last weekend, but more importantly 1.1% lower than the same weekend last year, which is the third weekend in a row that 2010 was below 2009's pace. Granted, year-to-date 2010 is still ahead of 2009 by 5.5% at $1.06 billion to $1.00 billion, but if new releases are not stronger in February, that could change.

I give up. Avatar has beaten me as a box office analyst. No matter how well I think the film will do, it beats expectations. This time around it fell just 10.5% to $31.28 million over the weekend while it lifted its running tally to $595.75 million. This set yet another record as the highest grossing seventh weekend of release and puts it two days away from overtaking Titanic on the All-time chart. With Oscar nominations being handed out later this morning, it could get a boost next weekend while even if it has its worst week-to-week performance, it is hard to image it won't reach $700 million domestically.

Edge of Darkness missed expectations with $17.21 million, which is actually lower than Legion's opening last weekend. This is Mel Gibson's worst opening for a film he starred in since Braveheart, which opened 15 years ago. Additionally, its reviews slipped below the overall positive level and with direct competition opening next weekend, it could see a sharp drop-off come Friday and could disappear before February is over. On the plus side, it wasn't a terribly expensive movie to make and the studio only paid $27 million for the distribution rights, so it won't be a complete loss.

On the other hand, When in Rome, matched expectations nearly perfectly with $12.35 million during its first three days of release. As far as romantic comedies go, that's not bad. As for its reviews, they are bad, even for a romantic comedy, but not as bad as they were before the weekend. (Based on this performance and depending on the extras, I would rate the DVD / Blu-ray release as a soft rental, if and only if you are a fan of the genre and one of the two leads.)

Surprisingly, The Tooth Fairy remained in fourth place, down 28.6% to just under $10.00 million for the weekend and $26.10 million after two. With no direct competition next weekend, it has a slim chance at remaining in the top five one more week and it might reach $50 million in total. However, even if that turns out to be optimistic, its reported production budget was only $48 million, so as long as it does respectable business on the home market, it will eventually reach profitability.

The Book of Eli remained in the top five with $8.91 million over the weekend for a total of $74.51 million. At this pace, $100 million isn't out of the question, but its chances are less than 50%.

Moving onto the sophomore class, we find Legion in sixth place with $7.18 million, which is within a rounding error of Thursday's prediction. However, with just $29.02 million after 10 days of release, its box office run has been mostly forgettable. Extraordinary Measures fell out of the top ten with just $2.62 million in 2,548 theaters. With a per theater average of barely more than $1,000, a lot of theater owners will drop the movie on Friday and it won't add much more to its $10.45 million running tally.

One last note, as expected The Princess and the Frog reached $100 million over the weekend. Part of me wants to call this a phyrric victory, but that's not entirely accurate, as I believe the movie will eventually show a profit on the home market. However, for a film that many were expecting to reach $200 million, this milestone can't be seen as a reason to really celebrate. Call it a consolation prize.


Filed under: Tooth Fairy, Edge of Darkness, When in Rome, The Book of Eli, Avatar, The Princess and the Frog, Legion, Extraordinary Measures