It's fun now to think back to 1997, when Titanic was portrayed not just as a box office mega-hit, but a sort of cinematic freak of nature. Its $600 million domestic total -- unthinkable at the time -- was the result not just of popularity, but of a fanatical devotion that, most people seemed to think, could never be reproduced or repeated. The papers and local news were filled with breathless, slightly bemused pop pieces about the gaggle of girls who were on their 17th viewing, etc. That -- not the movie itself -- was the phenomenon.

What once seemed impossible is now inevitable. James Cameron's follow-up to Titanic will take the all-time domestic box office record -- not next weekend, probably, but surely the following. In its 6th week of release, Avatar dropped a miniscule 16%. On its face, that doesn't seem as impressive as Titanic's extraordinary staying power -- it remained at #1 for 15 weeks, and gained viewership from week to week as often as it lost it -- but Titanic also opened to $29 million, not $77.

Worldwide, Avatar now trails Titanic by, uh, $6 million. Expect that record to fall in the next day or two.


The weekend's best opener was Screen Gems' Legion, which delivered on its promise of schlocky religious horror to the tune of $18.2 million -- a great number for a mid-class January genre flick. The other two debuts fared less well. With $14.5 million, The Tooth Fairy was The Rock's worst opening weekend as a headliner, along with The Gridiron Gang. And Extraordinary Measures, CBS Films' first foray into theatrical distribution, fell prey to the tv-movie smear, opening to a lackluster $7 million.

The Book of Eli
and The Lovely Bones both fell about 50%. The former is still performing ahead of expectations, while the latter has to be considered a bit of a bungle.

The top 10 chart after the jump.

1 - Avatar (Fox) - $36.00 ($11,461) - $552.80
2 - Legion (Screen Gems) - $18.20 ($7,351) - $18.20
3 - The Book of Eli (Warner Bros.) - $17.00 ($5,454) - $31.63
4 - The Tooth Fairy (Fox) - $14.50 ($4,336) - $14.50
5 - The Lovely Bones (Dreamworks) - $8.80 ($3,423) - $31.62
6 - Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros.) - $7.12 ($2,665) - $191.56
7 - Extraordinary Measures (CBS) - $7.00 ($2,746) - $7.00
8 - Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Fox) - $6.50 ($2,186) - $204.24
9 - It's Complicated (Universal) - $6.19 ($2,690) - $98.65
10 - The Spy Next Door (Lionsgate) - $4.75 ($1,624) - $18.71

Next week: Mel Gibson's acting comeback in Edge of Darkness and fantasy rom-com silliness in When in Rome.