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'Avatar' Blasts Off on Opening Day

by Brandon Gray
 

 
December 19, 2009

On Friday, Avatar wrangled a stellar estimated $27 million on approximately 7,000 screens at 3,452 sites (including $3.5 million from its midnight start). The picture's 3D presentations at 2,038 sites accounted for 58 percent of the gross.

Avatar's first day stands as the third highest-grossing ever for a December release. It slots behind The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's $34.5 million and I Am Legend's $30.1 million (and ranks 33rd among all movies), although several other December pictures were greater in terms of attendance. Among other comparable titles, Avatar had a far more prodigious beginning than the King Kong remake, another long, computer-generated spectacle, and its first day was about the same as Star Trek from earlier this year.

Back in December 1997, the previous movie from Avatar director James Cameron, Titanic, garnered $8.7 million on its opening day, which would equal around $14 million adjusted for ticket price inflation. The romantic epic had the second highest-grossing December launch on record at the time (behind Scream 2), and, remarkably, kept posting blockbuster grosses week-in and week-out. Titanic was the grand exception, and Avatar is not likely to see similar longevity, but December releases do typically make more than their openings would suggest at other times of the year, due to the nature of the holidays.

Also debuting, Did You Hear About the Morgans? made a quiet estimated $2.4 million on around 3,000 screens at 2,718 sites. The Princess and the Frog tumbled 51 percent to an estimated $3.4 million ($35.9 million total), while The Blind Side had another strong hold, down 33 percent to an estimated $3.2 million ($157.9 million total).

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