Avatar Scores $77M Opening Weekend

Update #2: Final grosses for the US domestic opening weekend was better than expected with $77 million, beating the best December opening record held by “I Am Legend”.

Update: Worldwide the film pulled in an additional $159.2 million in its opening weekend, bringing its global opening weekend haul to $232 million.

James Cameron’s sci-fi epic “Avatar” opened along expected lines, pulling in an estimated $73 million for its domestic opening weekend. The number is the sixth highest opening of the year, but was hampered by severe winter storms in the north-east which kept many people indoors.

Unlike say ‘New Moon’ which burned off more than half its audience in its $142m record-shattering opening weekend, the big question here is longevity as “Avatar” is relying on repeat and long term business both in the US and globally over the generally quiet first few months of 2010 to pull in audiences.

A blockbuster with its kind of positive critical notices generally earns between three to four times its opening weekend, putting Avatar’s domestic gross at around $220-280 million assuming no drastic drop-off. That’s a number Fox would be very happy with as internationally it’s expected to earn at least that much again and likely a lot more.

The other wide release, the heavily panned Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker rom-com “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” took in just $7 million for the weekend and should quickly disappear from theaters.

In limited release the musical “Nine” did astonishing business, pulling in $61,750 per screen on four screens – an average triple that of critically acclaimed western “Crazy Heart” which had an average of $21,050 in four theaters. The wider bowing “The Young Victoria” opened on 20 screens to $7,400 each.