Weekend Box Office (January 8 - 10, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The decade's first crop of new releases is here. Horror fans get vampire action with Daybreakers, young women have the engagement-themed comedy Leap Year, and teens trying to lose their virginity can spend time with Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt. All will try to compete against the unstoppable force of Avatar which has no plans of giving up its crown.

Lionsgate aims to prove that not all vampires are big-haired pretty boys with its new horror film Daybreakers. The R-rated thriller takes place in 2019 and tells of bloodsuckers and their need for survival when humans start to approach extinction. The film features Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill so the starpower goes above and beyond the typical fright flick. Studios have learned that audiences lose their appetite for violent gory films at Christmastime, but once January starts the hunger comes back. And with college kids still on break, the potential for sales is there. Daybreakers should play to genre fans and do well with young males. The marketing has been strong so interest is definitely there, especially among sci-fi fans that have had enough of blue aliens. Attacking 2,523 theaters, Daybreakers may debut with around $17M this weekend.

Boasting a few less vampires is the Amy Adams comedy Leap Year which Universal is using to attract young women. The PG-13 pic about an American gal that travels to Dublin to use an Irish tradition to get herself engaged will have little appeal to men and should skew heavily female. Luckily, January has been a good time for female-skewing comedies with recognizable stars. Bride Wars bowed to $19.8M this very weekend last year and 27 Dresses debuted to $23M the year before, although those were given more aggressive releases in more than 3,000 theaters each.

Wedding-themed comedies almost always work and Adams has the good looks and acting chops to anchor her own films. There's no famous male lead or even popular actress in a secondary role so Adams will see her box office power put to the test. The story isn't the most appealing and reviews have been bad so there's little breakout potential here. But with It's Complicated and The Blind Side playing to slightly older women, this new entry could seize a small opportunity right now with twentysomethings. Debuting in 2,511 theaters, Leap Year may open to about $12M this weekend.

Michael Cera gets another shot at being a leading man with the much-delayed Youth in Revolt which targets teens and young adults on Friday. The R rating may prevent some of his younger fans from buying tickets and the lack of additional starpower will limit the potential. The Weinstein Co. is hoping that after The Hangover, Zach Galifianakis can bring some value to the table but that may be asking for a lot. Cera headlined the teen comedy Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist which bowed to a solid $11.3M from 2,421 locations, but it had a more commercially friendly PG-13 rating, more buzz, and a wider release. Youth also has some tough competition as many films have solid appeal to young adults right now. Landing in around 2,000 locations, Youth in Revolt could take in about $7M this weekend.

A little film called Avatar looks to cruise to its fourth consecutive weekend at number one as none of the new competitors look strong enough to unseat the Na'vi who will probably collect more cash than the three freshmen combined. Weekday grosses have been exceptionally strong even with the holiday season now over. Monday saw $8.1M, Tuesday dipped 10% to $7.3M, and Wednesday slipped only 6% to an estimated $6.9M. A 40% decline this weekend would give James Cameron about $41M which would boost the amazing cume to $422M by Sunday and break the record for the best fourth-weekend gross set a dozen years ago by Titanic with $28.7M. That would put Avatar at number eight on the all-time domestic list. The road ahead should end up with The Dark Knight losing its domestic spot at number two. The only question is which Cameron film will end up in that slot when the Pandora film ends its run.

Overseas, Avatar shot up to an eye-popping $760M on Wednesday and with $374.4M from North America raised its global haul to $1.134 billion which was enough to surpass The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to become the second biggest worldwide blockbuster of all-time. And it did it in a mere three weeks! Only Titanic is bigger with $1.84 billion from 1997 and 1998 when ticket prices were much lower. Regardless, James Cameron now owns the two biggest blockbusters of all-time, and neither is a sequel.

Sherlock Holmes has been a strong performer but is likely to see larger declines in the weeks ahead. With Friday not being a national holiday like last Friday, dropoffs should be sizable for all. The detective pic may fall by 55% to around $16.5M for a cume to date of $166M. A 45% fall could be in order for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel which has no new direct competition. That would put the kidpic at $19M for the frame and $183M overall. Look for Universal's comedy It's Complicated to slide by only 40% to roughly $11M and raise its sum to $76M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the charts for the Top Blockbusters of 2009 and the Golden Globe Nominee Grosses. For reviews of Avatar and Sherlock Holmes visit The Chief Report.

LAST YEAR Clint Eastwood hit a career best with his return to acting in Gran Torino which expanded nationwide after a month of limited play grossing $29.5M for the number one spot. The Warner Bros. hit went on to capture $148.1M. Two other new wide openers followed with Universal's thriller The Unborn bowing to $21.1M beating out Fox's comedy Bride Wars which scared up $19.8M in its first weekend. Final grosses reached $42.7M and $58.7M, respectively. Former Hollywood power couple Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt followed as Marley & Me took in $11.4M and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button collected $9.2M.

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Last Updated: January 7, 2010 at 10:25AM ET