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Weekend Report: ‘Avatar’ Breaks 'Titanic's Foreign Record

by Brandon Gray
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January 25, 2010

Avatar kept trucking over the weekend, boasting not only the biggest gross by far but also the smallest decline among nationwide releases. James Cameron's juggernaut calmed by just 18 percent, which was almost as small as Titanic at the same point. Raking in $34.9 million, Avatar broke the record for sixth weekend gross formerly held by Titanic's $25.2 million (though Titanic retains the crown in terms of estimated attendance).

On Saturday, its 37th day, Avatar surpassed The Dark Knight's $533.3 million total to become the second highest-grossing movie of all time, though, in terms of attendance, it likely hasn't yet cracked the Top 50. At its current trajectory, Avatar will exceed Titanic's $600.8 million total within two weeks. In 38 days, Avatar's tally stands at $551.7 million, 80 percent of which from 3D presentations (including 16 percent from IMAX venues alone).

Overseas, Avatar had another $100 million plus gross, easing just 16 percent from holdovers alone and setting a new sixth week benchmark. On Saturday, it laid claim to a record that was once deemed unobtainable: biggest foreign gross ever, eclipsing Titanic's $1.24 billion. Through Sunday, Avatar has tallied nearly $1.29 billion. Italy was its top market of the week with $13.3 million (down only eight percent), while China was second with $12.5 million (off 31 percent for a record-breaking $103.1 million total), despite the communist government stripping it of its 2D screens, and France was third with $10 million (down ten percent). Worldwide, Avatar is a smidgen behind Titanic's $1.84 billion and will handily achieve the top spot on Monday.

Back to domestic, two movies about winged men, Legion (2010) and The Tooth Fairy, and medical drama Extraordinary Measures debuted to mixed results. Unleashed on approximately 2,900 screens at 2,476 sites, Legion drew $17.5 million, good for second place but about average compared to other siege/survival horrors or biblical thrillers. The start was effectively the same as 30 Days of Night, Max Payne, Pitch Black and Demon Knight in terms of attendance. While Paul Bettany's angel character was the centerpiece of the poster, Legion's main selling point was taking seemingly innocent people, like a grandma, an ice cream man or a child, and then having them turn demonic, stretching and contorting their bodies in creepy ways a la the advertising for movies like The Unborn (2009), Boogeyman and others. Distributor Sony Pictures' exit polling indicated that 58 percent of the audience was male and 54 percent was over 25 years old.

The Tooth Fairy extracted $14 million on around 3,700 screens at 3,344 sites, which was significantly less than the openings for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's previous family movies The Game Plan and Race to Witch Mountain. It was also below par in relation to similar movies and about the same as College Road Trip. Tooth's decay can be attributed to a premise that was like The Santa Clause movies, only centering on a far less popular character and without that franchise's relatable family appeal and connection to reality. Tooth's advertising amounted to a bunch of incongruous gags related to the one joke of seeing big guy Rock in wings (though no tutu), which one can gleam from the poster. Mitigating the opening is that Tooth is likely to hold up better than Legion and others due to its family target. Distributor 20th Century Fox's research showed that 75 percent of the audience was parents and their children and 60 percent was female.

Extraordinary Measures made $6 million at 2,549 sites, which was less than half of My Sister's Keeper's debut and less attended than the other medically-related Measures movies, Extreme Measures and Desperate Measures. Extraordinary's marketing was star struck, including a nondescript poster featuring overlapping images of actors Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser, but made the bigger mistake of sending mixed messages: some ads tried to sell the picture as a medical thriller, while others as an inspirational drama (one ad tried to associate it with The Blind Side), most of which were vague to boot. The trailers and television spots focused on Harrison Ford, and very little on top-billed Brendan Fraser, all the while presenting a television movie aesthetic with a forced attempt to gussy up the proceedings with golden, sparkling title card graphics. According to distributor CBS Films (Measures is their debut release), 80 percent of the audience was aged 35 years and older and 59 percent was male.

Meanwhile, The Book of Eli retreated 52 percent to $15.7 million, lifting its total to $60.7 million in ten days, and The Lovely Bones and The Spy Next Door had over 50 percent drop-offs as well. There were relatively minimal drops again for It's Complicated, The Blind Side and Up in the Air, while Sherlock Holmes had its best hold yet.

In other milestone news, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel crossed the $200 million mark in 32 days, which was faster than the previous Chipmunks movie's 43 days.

Last Weekend
'Avatar' Reigns with Record MLK Gross

This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2009 -
'Paul Blart' Clamps Down 'Rise of Lycans'
• 2008 - 'Spartans,' 'Rambo' Spar Off
• 2007 - 'Stomp' Stamps Out 'Hitcher'
• 2006 - 'Underworld' Lords Over 'New World'
• 2005 - 'Are We There Yet?' Rolls In at No. 1

Related Charts
Weekend Box Office Results
All Time 6th Weekends

All Time Grosses (Domestic)
All Time Grosses (Worldwide)



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