Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow denies AVATAR record grosses, for now

Although “Avatar” made its debut in 3,452 theaters in North America, movies of similar scope have historically opened in even more theaters, and that smaller number may have held back ticket sales. There is also evidence that a shortage of 3-D theaters depressed opening results. Fox had hoped to have hundreds of additional 3-D locations available, but the credit crunch and industry squabbling has delayed technology upgrades.

Audiences seem to have swallowed Fox’s message that this is a film that should be seen in 3-D. Imax theaters — 179 in North America and 58 overseas — broke sales records, with every theater selling out. One signal of how “Avatar” could perform going forward: One Imax theater in London has already sold $1 million worth of tickets, $800,000 of which is for the weeks ahead.

SHOOT: I'll be watching AVATAR for the 3rd time this week. That puts it on a par or better than Dark Knight.
clipped from

The movie will need to demonstrate supernatural hold on audiences in the coming weeks to avoid becoming a financial calamity for Fox and its financing partners, Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners. “Avatar” ended up costing around $310 million to produce (although tax credits will shave about $30 million off that bill) and an estimated $150 million to market.

Overseas “Avatar” opened in 106 countries, selling an additional $159.2 million in tickets for a worldwide gross of $232.2 million, Mr. Aronson said.

Tom Rothman, co-chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said in an interview, “We believe, especially given that women worldwide responded so strongly, that this is just the start.”

Given the cost, glowing critical reviews and Mr. Cameron’s “Titanic” résumé — not to mention that the 60 percent of the theaters playing the film were charging an additional $3 to $5 for 3-D presentation — analysts expected “Avatar” to sail past previous December behemoths.

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