The debut of The Book of Eli on Friday may have knocked Avatar out of the spot it had been occupying, more or less unchallenged, for the past 28 days but, as expected, that was just a temporary hiccup. Saturday signaled a return to grace for James Cameron and Fox, with Avatar ringing up another $41.3 million through Sunday. And with Monday a holiday, that means that Avatar should clear the $500 million mark within the next 24 hours.
|2||Book of Eli||$31,615,000||$31.6|
|6||Spy Next Door||$9,700,000||$9.7|
|9||The Blind Side||$5,565,000||$226.7|
|10||Up in the Air||$5,460,000||$62.8|
Last week, when I contemplated a fifth weekend at number one for Avatar I was thinking that, even if its grosses should fall by 40% over last weekend, The Book of Eli would have to be pretty strong out of the gate to overtake it. And considering that Eli was R-rated, that didn’t seem likely. Indeed, even with theatre counts down this weekend by approximately 140 screens, Avatar fell only 17.9% over last weekend. And let me tell you, that is almost unheard of in our era of one week blockbusters.
By Monday Avatar will have secured the record for the highest grossing film over the MLK Holiday frame as well. The former record holder was 2008’s Cloverfield with $46.1 million. And as for today’s Avatar achievement – that fabled fifth weekend at number one – the last time a film managed that feat was over ten years ago when The Sixth Sense snuck up on audiences in the lull of August.
All of which is not to say that The Book of Eli did not have a very impressive debut in its own right. The WB-distributed drama pulled in an estimated $31.6 million from its 3,111 engagements for a per screen average of over $10,000. It is a bit of a return to form for star Denzel Washington who hasn’t seen a bona fide hit since American Gangster.
Surprisingly, Avatar and Eli did not quite suck all of the oxygen out of this weekend’s box office. There was room enough for Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones to take in an estimated $17 million on its first weekend in wide release. Considering that the film took in less than $500,000 during its very limited run of over one month, this weekend’s $6,600 per screen average has to be seen as a win.
Finally, Jackie Chan is back and more egregious than ever in The Spy Next Door. I will admit that I had completely forgotten that this film was coming out – but the fact that I failed to see a single TV spot for the PG-rated kiddie-thriller probably didn’t help. Considering this and the general lack of quality associated with The Spy Next Door, Lionsgate was lucky to pull in the $9.7 million that it did over the film’s first three days.
Looking ahead to next week, Avatar should be able to hold for a sixth weekend at number one. There are a bunch of new movies due out, but they all look like January movies… as in “this one looks weak, let’s stick it in January and hope for the best.” That worked out for Paul Blart, could it work out for Dwayne Johnson and Tooth Fairy? Probably not, but we’ll keep you posted.