AvatarUPDATE: Variety is now reporting that 'Avatar's' final weekend tally was $77.3 million.

A not-so-funny thing happened to 'Avatar' on its way to a December opening weekend box office record: the East Coast's first major winter storm came between moviegoers and their multiplexes and kept Jim Cameron's sci-fi epic from topping 'I Am Legend's' $77.2 million record.

Based on Friday's $27 million gross, box office analysts had projected 'Avatar's' opening weekend total at $80-85 million. Instead, it settles for an estimated $73 million.

With the rave reviews of the nation's hardest-to-please critics and good word of mouth, 'Avatar' will get past this speed bump and continue at a full gallop. Overnight, 'Avatar' went from an Oscar long-shot on most critics' polls to a front-runner, and with nominations almost certain to come from most of the industry guilds next month, it will be filling theaters -- especially those showing it in 3-D -- for weeks to come. AvatarUPDATE: Variety is now reporting that 'Avatar's' final weekend tally was $77.3 million; it becomes the biggest December opening of all time, beating out 'I Am Legend's' previous $77.2 million record.

A not-so-funny thing happened to 'Avatar' on its way to a December opening weekend box office record: the East Coast's first major winter storm came between moviegoers and their multiplexes.

Based on Friday's $27 million gross, box office analysts had projected 'Avatar's' opening weekend total at $80-85 million. Instead, it settles for an estimated $73 million $77.3 million.

With the rave reviews of the nation's hardest-to-please critics and good word of mouth (audiences gave it an average grade of A, according to the exit polling company Cinemascore), 'Avatar' will get past this speed bump and continue at a full gallop. Overnight, 'Avatar' went from an Oscar long-shot on most critics' polls to a front-runner, and with nominations almost certain to come from most of the industry guilds next month, it will be filling theaters -- especially those showing it in 3-D -- for weeks to come.

The weekend's other wide release, the Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker comedy 'Did You Hear About the Morgans?,' stumbled out of the gate and was a disappointment to its was to off to a slow start even before the snow began to fall. Its weekend estimate of $7 million suggests a very short run for this 'Green Acres' knock-off about a New York couple who stumble upon a murder and are shipped off to Wyoming by the Federal Witness Relocation Program.

Its $7 million gross was only good enough for fourth place on the box office chart behind No. 2 'The Princess and the Frog' ($12.2 million) and the still-going-strong 'The Blind Side,' No. 3 with $10 million and a running total of $164.7 million.

Clint Eastwood's sixth place 'Invictus' fell more than 50% from its opening weekend, taking in just $4.2 million and a disappointing 10-day total of just $15.8 million. The drama about post-apartheid South African President Nelson Mandela's ingenious use of the country's rugby team to unite his badly-divided people needs a boost from industry guilds that begin announcing their award nominees next month.

The big news in the bottom half of the box office chart is the presence at No. 8 of Jason Reitman's 'Up in the Air.' Playing in just 175 theaters, the comedy/drama about a man who flies around the country delivering lay-off notices to corporate employees earned $3.1 million over the weekend. It goes wide on Christmas Day.

Rounding out the Top 10 are 'New Moon' ($4.4 million), 'Disney's A Christmas Carol' ($3.4 million), 'Brothers' ($2.6 million) and 'Old Dogs' ($2.3 million).

Top 10:
1. 'Avatar,' $77.3 million (3,452 theaters).
2. 'The Princess and the Frog,' $12.2 million (2,475).
3. 'The Blind Side,' $10 million (2,407).
4. 'Did You Hear About the Morgans?' $7 million (2,718).
5. 'New Moon,' $4.4 million (3,035).
6. 'Invictus,' $4.2 million (2,125).
7. 'Disney's A Christmas Carol,' $3.4 million (2,070).
8. 'Up in the Air,' $3.1 million (175).
9. 'Brothers,' $2.6 million (2,009).
10. 'Old Dogs,' $2.3 million (2,630).