'Avatar's' next big target: the $601 million domestic gross of Cameron's 'Titanic' in 1998. Once thought impossible, 'Avatar's' takedown of its elder sibling is now inevitable. If you saw 'Avatar' on Martin Luther King Day, you may have bought the ticket that pushed James Cameron's freshly-crowned Golden Globe winner over the $500 million mark in domestic box office. And you would have helped it become the fastest movie in history to hit that mark, a mere 33 days.
'Avatar's' next big target: the $601 million domestic gross of Cameron's 'Titanic' in 1998. Once thought impossible, 'Avatar's' take-down of its elder sibling is now inevitable.
But there was a minor hiccup on 'Avatar's' way to its newly established records. For one day -- Friday, Jan. 15 -- 'Avatar' was knocked out of the No. 1 spot by 'The Book of Eli,' a poorly-reviewed post-apocalypse thriller that owed its big opening to the popularity of its star Denzel Washington.
'Eli' took in $11.7 million on Friday to 'Avatar's' $10.5 million. But by Saturday, all was right on Earth and Pandora as 'Avatar' retook the lead and, according to Monday estimates, was on its way to a $54.6 million four-day Martin Luther King weekend. Its total is now at about $505 million. 'The Book of Eli' finished its four-day opening at $38 million.
The Golden Globe awards that 'Avatar' won on Sunday night for Best Director and Best Motion Picture, Drama pretty much established the sci-fi epic as the Oscar front-runner as well. The awards certainly give it added momentum as the last audience hold-outs give in and check it out. Also, it now seems likely that most of the 6 or 8 million people who had only seen it in standard projection are taking a second look at it on 3-D and 3-D IMAX screens.
Going wide after several weeks in limited release, Peter Jackson's critically vilified 'The Lovely Bones,' adapted from Alice Sebold's best-seller about a murdered teenager who narrates the story of her death and the plight of her killer, claimed the third spot on the box office chart with a four-day gross of $20.5 million. That's far better than Jackie Chan fared with his latest action film, 'The Spy Next Door,' which barely cleared $13 million over the long weekend.
Of the holiday holdovers, fourth place 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel' continued to stay ahead of fifth place 'Sherlock Holmes,' selling an estimated $15 million to 'Holmes'' $11.7 million.
Looking ahead, 'Avatar' is likely to sail through to a sixth straight weekend atop the box office. Newcomers 'The Tooth Fairy,' 'Legion' and 'Extraordinary Measures' look like routine releases in a Jan.-Mar. window that is generally considered Inventory Clearance Season for Hollywood.
Four-day weekend estimates:
1. 'Avatar,' $54.6 million (3,285 theaters), $505 million total.
2. 'The Book of Eli,' $38 million (3,111), new release.
3. 'The Lovely Bones, $20.5 million (2,563), $21 million.
4. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel,' $15 million (3,296), $196.1 million.
5. 'The Spy Next Door,' $13 million (2,924), new release.
6. 'Sherlock Holmes,' $11.7 million, (3,173), $181.2 million.
7. 'It's Complicated,' $9.6 million (2,673), $90.1 million.
8. 'Leap Year,' $7.1 million (2,512), $19.5 million.
9. 'Up in the Air,' $6.7 million (2,107), $64 million.
10. 'The Blind Side$6.5 million (2,408), $227.7 million.