Weekend Box Office (January 22 - 24, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND James Cameron's latest juggernaut Avatar became the first film since the director's own Titanic to rule the number one spot for six straight weekends as it once again steamrolled over the competition topping the charts by a wide margin. Three new films without 3D trips into outer space opened to mixed results with the thriller Legion leading the way in second place with a solid showing. The family comedy The Tooth Fairy saw mild business in fourth while moviegoers ignored the drama Extraordinary Measures which landed in eighth. Films with major Golden Globe wins all witnessed small declines.

There was no stopping Avatar which slipped a remarkably low 18% in its sixth frame and grossed $34.9M to remain atop the North American box office, according to final studio figures. After only 38 days of release, the Fox smash catapulted its total domestic gross to an eye-popping $551.7M and on Saturday surpassed The Dark Knight to seize the number two spot on the list of top-grossing domestic blockbusters of all-time. It now trails Titanic's $600.8M by a mere $49M and will break the 12-year-old record next week with ease. Avatar also set a new record for best gross in the sixth weekend of any film's release beating the iceberg pic's $25.2M from this very frame in 1998. The Pandora hit has grossed north of $30M in each of its six weekends - another industry first.

In the world of actual tickets sold, Avatar trails numerous films from the past like 1990's Home Alone, 1994's Forrest Gump, and 2002's Spider-Man. But in the world of grosses - the actual dollar amounts that participating production, distribution, and exhibition companies will be dividing up and stuffing their pockets with - the Na'vi hit is now in the same league that Titanic has been in by itself for so long. Avatar's strength has been powered in part by Saturday surges. The Golden Globe winner for Best Picture - Drama took in $9M on Friday, soared by 81% to $16.3M on Saturday, and dipped 41% to $9.6M on Sunday. 3D and IMAX screens are also at the center of the public fascination with the film as people are continuing to pay extra for this next-generation moviegoing experience. At Avatar's current pace, reaching the $700M domestic barrier cannot be ruled out.

The Cameron megahit is still a durable smash overseas as international audiences have not had enough. The overseas tally hit an estimated $107M this weekend, off a slim 14%, boosting the international haul to a staggering $1.288 billion beating Titanic's record of $1.242 billion. The global gross now stands at a jaw-dropping $1.84 billion for Avatar putting it a mere $3M behind the long-standing record of $1.843 billion set in 1998. Avatar will have no problem crashing through the $2 billion worldwide mark in the coming weeks as it topples all of Titanic's major box office records.

In the weekly battle to be the top non-Avatar film, Sony scored a hit with its supernatural thriller Legion which debuted to $17.5M from 2,476 theaters for a strong $7,069 average. The R-rated effects film starring Paul Bettany, Tyrese Gibson, and Dennis Quaid played to young men done with Pandora. Studio research showed that 58% of the audience was male and 54% was over 25. Legion cost $25-30M to produce.

Denzel Washington's apocalyptic thriller The Book of Eli dropped 52% to $15.7M and placed third this weekend. After ten days, the R-rated actioner has taken in a solid $60.7M for Warner Bros. and has a chance at becoming the Oscar-winning actor's fourth career $100M+ hit.

The Rock generated mild results for his latest entry into the family film market The Tooth Fairy which bowed to $14M from 3,344 sites for a mediocre $4,190 average. Dwayne Johnson's PG-rated tale of a hockey superstar that becomes, yes, a tooth fairy played mostly to kids and parents. Reviews were bad, but probably had little impact.

Off 51% in its second weekend of wide play, Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones dropped to fifth with $8.4M lifting the total to $31.2M. Paramount might end up with around $50M which didn't seem possible just two weeks ago. Sherlock Holmes held strong easing only 33% to $6.6M in its fifth frame. The Warner Bros. hit has banked $191.1M and next week will become the tenth film from 2009 to break the $200M hurdle.

With Fox's own Tooth Fairy taking away kids looking for goofy comedy, the studio's smash Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel fell 45% to $6.4M for seventh place. But the runaway hit did break the double century mark this weekend pushing its total to $204.1M.

Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford failed to excite adult audiences with their new drama Extraordinary Measures which opened in eighth with only $6M. The first release from CBS Films averaged a weak $2,363 from 2,545 locations and played best in the midwest, southeast and mountain areas. The PG-rated film drew poor reviews which had an impact on the older-skewing audience.

Universal's adult comedy It's Complicated still held up well dipping only 28% in its fifth round to $5.8M boosting the total to $98.3M. Look for the Meryl Streep pic to break the $100M mark by the end of the week. Jackie Chan rounded out the top ten with his kidpic The Spy Next Door which fell a troubling 53% in its second weekend to $4.6M. Lionsgate has grossed only $18.5M in ten days and should finish with $27-29M. Chan will try to attract a larger audience this summer when he stars in the China-set remake of The Karate Kid opposite Will Smith's son Jaden.

The top ten films grossed $120M which was up just 1% from last year when Paul Blart: Mall Cop opened in the top spot with $21.6M; and up 10% from 2007 when Meet the Spartans debuted at number one with $18.5M.

Compared to projections, Legion powered ahead of my $12M forecast, The Tooth Fairy opened below my $18M prediction, and Extraordinary Measures came in a couple of notches below my $9M projection.

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

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top Worldwide Blockbusters. For reviews of Avatar and The Lovely Bones and a DVD review of Like Stars on Earth visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Mel Gibson's Edge of Darkness and Kristin Bell's When in Rome become the latest contenders for the number two spot.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Jan 22 - 24 Jan 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Avatar $ 34,944,081 $ 42,785,612 -18.3 3,141 6 $ 11,125 $ 551,741,499 Fox
2 Legion 17,501,625 2,476 1 7,069 17,501,625 Sony
3 The Book of Eli 15,732,463 32,789,494 -52.0 3,111 2 5,057 60,735,686 Warner Bros.
4 The Tooth Fairy 14,010,409 3,344 1 4,190 14,010,409 Fox
5 The Lovely Bones 8,418,192 17,005,133 -50.5 2,571 5 3,274 31,242,633 Paramount
6 Sherlock Holmes 6,628,069 9,889,154 -33.0 2,670 5 2,482 191,076,852 Warner Bros.
7 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel 6,403,504 11,619,949 -44.9 2,973 5 2,154 204,140,348 Fox
8 Extraordinary Measures 6,012,594 2,545 1 2,363 6,012,594 CBS
9 It's Complicated 5,810,025 8,112,555 -28.4 2,301 5 2,525 98,270,085 Universal
10 The Spy Next Door 4,584,524 9,726,056 -52.9 2,924 2 1,568 18,544,639 Lionsgate
11 The Blind Side 4,166,136 5,557,274 -25.0 1,932 10 2,156 233,678,402 Warner Bros.
12 Up in the Air 3,902,190 5,445,379 -28.3 1,707 8 2,286 69,245,716 Paramount
13 Leap Year 2,889,110 5,928,510 -51.3 1,939 3 1,490 22,855,295 Universal
14 Daybreakers 1,551,703 5,185,554 -70.1 1,523 3 1,019 28,096,998 Lionsgate
15 To Save a Life 1,513,955 441 1 3,433 1,513,955 Samuel Goldwyn
16 Crazy Heart 1,353,214 647,473 109.0 93 6 14,551 3,865,689 Fox Searchlight
17 The Princess and the Frog 1,292,793 2,777,707 -53.5 1,082 9 1,195 99,248,026 Buena Vista
18 Youth in Revolt 819,545 3,004,123 -72.7 743 3 1,103 14,269,450 Weinstein Co.
19 The Young Victoria 745,514 950,411 -21.6 307 6 2,428 7,376,860 Apparition
20 A Single Man 717,077 843,600 -15.0 216 7 3,320 4,466,097 Weinstein Co.
Top 5 $ 90,606,770 $ 114,089,342 -20.6
Top 10 120,045,486 148,859,116 -19.4
Top 20 138,996,723 165,653,131 -16.1
Top 20 vs. 2009 138,996,723 151,350,600 -8.2

Last Updated: January 25, 2010 at 6:30PM ET