Happy New Year? If you work at News Corp, oh hell yes it is! After wrapping up 2009 as the second highest-grossing domestic feature of the year (in just 14 days), director James Cameron’s Avatar skipped not a beat as it entered the new decade. The film has now claimed the all-time domestic records for both its second and third weekends and has just surpassed The Dark Knight to lock down fourth place in the all-time (not adjusted for inflation) box office charts worldwide.
|3||Alvin & the Chipmunks 2||$36,600,000||$157.3|
|5||The Blind Side||$12,600,000||$209|
|6||Up in the Air||$11,400,000||$45|
|7||Princess & the Frog||$10,013,000||$86|
|8||Did You Hear About the Morgans?||$5,200,000||$25.6|
Here’s a breakdown of the Avatar estimates as of Sunday: here at home the film’s total stands at $352.1 million. Add in overseas estimates of $670.2 million for a staggering new worldwide total of $1.022 billion dollars. Many box office watchers chose to be circumspect about the chances that Avatar would reach this level so quickly. With a budget somewhere over $300 million, the chances for disaster were very real. But I believe it is now time to throw caution to the wind and start looking forward to the day that Avatar moves ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to become the second biggest movie of all-time – right behind that most untouchable of box office records – the 1.8 billion belonging to Titanic.
Now, before we get too carried away let me remind you that these numbers are still estimates. Even so, the rock solid numbers that Avatar has been pulling in day after day tell me that these worldwide figures can’t be too far off. On its third weekend in theatres Avatar fell only 9.6% over the Christmas weekend for a total of $68.3 million and a gigantic per screen average of $19,700. The other thing to keep in mind is that Avatar has a clear shot at retaining number one for the next two weeks at least. Even with diminishing weekend totals going forward, James Cameron is sure to claim the top two rungs on the box office ladder before January is done.
So, hyperbole aside, what does it all mean financially? The monetary details for this most gigantic of movies are still rather murky. We have that budget estimate of $300 million, give or take, and a marketing cost in the neighborhood of $150 million. It seems that even with Cameron’s track record Fox wanted to limit its overall exposure on Avatar by bringing in equity partners to share their risk. Reports have Cameron’s deal structured so that all investors will recoup their costs before he begins to see a profit. All in all it looks like Avatar began to pay dividends on December 29th – the day it crossed the $250 million mark domestically.
Now, I know that a lot of you who watch these figures are aware that all-time box office figures can be misleading. There are many, many factors that simply are not taken into account when considering a film’s overall numbers. In the case of Avatar we also have the fact that the film’s tickets cost, on average, one third more than a standard 2D film’s cost. On a level playing field, who knows where Avatar would shake out?
But let’s put all of that aside for now. Just for today let’s enjoy the fact that we are witnessing box office history in the making. We can all worry about the math later…