Last year's eventual Best Picture winner 'Slumdog Millionaire' had a 65% increase in sales during the three weeks after it scored 10 Academy Award nominations in late January. When this year's nominees are announced Feb. 2, 'Avatar' will be on at least that many ballots and besides threatening 'Titanic's' domestic record, it will have certainly passed 'Titanic' as the biggest worldwide blockbuster. It has taken James Cameron's 'Avatar' just 38 days to reach the $550 million mark in domestic ticket sales -- and if it can average $6.3 million a day over the next eight days, it will have eclipsed 'Titanic's' record by the morning of the Oscar nominations. Not that 'Avatar' will need any further assistance, but most Best Picture nominees see huge boosts in attendance immediately afterwards.
Last year's eventual Best Picture winner 'Slumdog Millionaire' had a 65 percent increase in sales during the three weeks after it scored 10 Academy Award nominations in late January. When this year's nominees are announced Feb. 2, 'Avatar' will be on at least that many ballots and besides threatening 'Titanic's' domestic record, it will have certainly passed 'Titanic' as the biggest worldwide blockbuster.
As expected, 'Avatar' sailed through its sixth straight weekend atop the box office chart, grossing an estimated $36 million, doubling the ticket sales of its nearest rival, the horror film 'Legion.' Despite -- or thanks to -- having no advance critics' screenings, 'Legion' grossed at estimated $18.2 million, enough to displace 'The Book of Eli' in the No. 2 spot. Business for the Denzel Washington spiritual thriller dropped nearly 50 percent, from an opening weekend of $31.6 million to just $17 million over its second weekend.
Fox's family comedy 'Tooth Fairy' opened to even less enthusiasm than expected, grossing an estimated $14.5 million and settling into the fourth spot behind 'Eli.' The weekend's third new release, the Harrison Ford medical drama 'Extraordinary Measures,' was D.O.A. at the box office, taking in just $7 million from 2,549 theaters to finish eighth.
Despite lukewarm to ice-cold reviews, Peter Jackson's 'The Lovely Bones' continued to do well with teenage girls. The movie, adapted from Alice Sebold's novel about the ghost of a teen girl who narrates the story of her murder and of her family's pursuit of her killer, added about $8.8 million over its second weekend in wide release. It finished fifth on the chart and now has more than $30 million in total grosses.
For the first time since its opening nine weeks ago, 'The Blind Side' slipped out of the top 10 into eleventh place, but Sandra Bullock's Best Actress SAG award -- and the most excellent acceptance speech she gave in receiving it Saturday night -- ought to give the movie enough of a bump to put it back in the top 10. 'Blind Side's' running total now stands at $234 million, a staggering sum for a movie that cost less than $30 million to make.
No other movies in wide release got help from the SAG awards. No. 9 'It's Complicated,' a comedy about a romantic triangle among aging Baby Boomers, failed to convert its only nomination, for Meryl Streep, and the fortunes of No. 12 'Up in the Air' fell further as its three nominated stars -- George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick -- were overlooked.
Once considered the Oscar front-runner in several major categories, 'Up in the Air' now needs all the help it can get when those nominations announced next week.
Estimated grosses for the weekend of Jan. 22-24:
1. 'Avatar,' $36 million (3,141 theaters), $552.8 million total.
2. 'Legion,' $18.2 million (2,476), new release.
3. 'The Book of Eli,' $17 million (3,111), $62 million.
4. 'Tooth Fairy,' $14.5 million (3,344), new release.
5. 'Lovely Bones,' $8.8 million (2,571), $31.6 million.
6. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel' (2,973), $204.7 million.
7. ''Extraordinary Measures,' $7 million (2,549), new release.
8. Sherlock Holmes,' $7 million (2,670), $191.4 million.
9. 'It's Complicated,' $6.2 million (2,301), $98.6 million.
10. 'The Spy Next Door,' $4.8 million (2,924), $18.7 million.