Skip to content

Reeling in the Weekend: How long will “Avatar” be #1?

January 25, 2010


It’s Monday. Time for a little back and forth….

DAVID: Before I hit the sack on Sunday night, I usually like to hit the check the box office and see where movies are at out there in the cineplexes….or rather what people are flocking to.  It’s no surprise that “Avatar” remains “numero uno” in it’s sixth week and what’s an equal yet sadder surprise is that the apocalyptic bomb “Legion” made it to the number two spot. This reconfirms that there is an audience for everything. What’s important to look at is just how much a film drops from week to week.

It’s simple logic that a movie, especially an anticipated and well-hyped movie, should do its best numbers on opening weekend. “Avatar” has been number one since it opened  and only took a slight 16% drop since last week, yet still made $36 million this weekend.  Could Cameron top his previous “Titanic” reign?  Right now both films are the highest grossing films to date.  Congratulations Mr. Cameron, if, uh, that’s what you’re going for.

It’ll be interesting to see how much longer “Avatar” will remain in the number one spot. “Titanic” was number one for 15 weeks and hit its highest gross the weekend of Valentine’s Day in 1998.  Does anyone remember what film sunk “Titanic” at the box office?  Didn’t think so.  It was April 5th, 1998 and the movie was “Lost in Space”.  I’ll let you think about that.  

This goes to show that “Avatar” can be usurped by kind of film.  Quality doesn’t come into the equation when it comes to what the audience want to see.



All of this compels me to present you with the following question:

Which upcoming film will open up the number two spot for “Avatar”?

Hmmm, let’s see….First thing we can do is forget January.  The only other two big name films coming out the thriller  “Edge of Darkness” with Mel Gibson and the romantic comedy “When in Rome” with Kristen Bell.  I don’t see those two chopping down any trees on Pandora.

Next month starts out with another rom-com based on a Nicholas Sparks book, “Dear John” starring that hunk, Channing Tatum.  Will Sparks fans and Tatum groupies topple “Avatar”?  It’s hard to say.  Then there’s Valentine’s Day weekend where we find a movie actually called “Valentine’s Day” with an all-star cast, the long-delayed “The Wolfman” (now there’s a date flick!) and for the whole family there’s “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” .  No, that last one is not about actual Olympians, it’s based on a popular children’s book.

So, do you see ANY of those films taking out “Avatar”?

Somehow, I doubt it.  I think I’m going to go with “Shutter Island”, the new Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  I’m not sure if this psychological thriller can do it but it certainly has been anticipated for some time.  It might hurt that the film’s original release date was last fall but not many know or care about that.

Ultimately, I don’t care about the money these weekend stats give.  I’m just curious as to which films people are seeing.  It helps me champion a seldom seen film all the more when I see the weekend results.  It also reminds me that no matter how awful a movie is, mediocre it is or how excellent it is….it will still have an audience.



Paul: The dethroning of “Avatar” could not come any slower, as far as I’m concerned.  Sure, the film is one of the more successful films of all-time in terms of total gross revenue, but there are several factors that many people aren’t considering that irk me!  First of all, this film cost roughly $500 million to produce!  So, whatever box office revenue totals you see, subtract $500 million dollars!  It’s funny to think that, back in 1995, we thought “Waterworld” was a huge investment!  “Avatar” makes “Waterworld” look like a super value meal at McDonald’s.

Secondly, I’d like to see the breakdown of exactly how many tickets “Avatar” has sold, because it’s important to note that 3D tickets are about 1.5 times the cost of regular admission tickets (and even more with IMAX).  With 3D and IMAX both being omitted from the original “Titanic” experience (just wait a couple of years until “Titanic: the 3D IMAX Experience” is released, per James Cameron’s comments at ComicCon), “Titanic” is still way more successful than “Avatar” in terms of (and this is an official term)  “butts in seats”.

Now that my not-so-secret “Avatar” hate is out there, we can throw that to the side.  Who will throw “Avatar” out of that coveted number-one spot?  With “Avatar” steadily dropping (but still dominating every other film), the next decent-sized release to come out (after “dump season” — January, of course) will probably do the trick.  David, you took the words right out of my mouth in your previous segment.  I think the candidates for the “numero uno” are most likely “The Wolfman” and “Shutter Island”.  “The Wolfman” has the recognizable name and a solid cast, and “Shutter Island” has “Leo” (his name must always be whispered) and Scorsese coming off of massive Oscar success with “The Departed”.

 With all this deep thought David that I have given to this topic, “Avatar” will probably “lose” to something awful like “From Paris With Love”.  Such is life.











DAVID:  “Something awful” would be fitting since “Lost in Space” fits that category pretty well. Funny you mentioned McDonald’s, a place where you can currently buy “Avatar” Happy Meals. Regardless which film unplugs “Avatar”, it’s obviously doubtful it will effect Cameron or his rabid Avatards, er, fanbase.  I understand fandom to an extent. I know what it means to be swept away by something you’re passionate about but I just can’t see it with this film. So, I’m more than ready for it to go away already (but I know that’s impossible) until all that kind of energy will be transferred to the next “Twilight” installment.

Alas, such is the nature of mainstream cinema.  I have no problem with people flocking to such films, really. I just mistakenly look for an ending to all the hype and that’s unrealistic of me, I guess . When I see so many other great films getting limited release or a short run of engagement along with hardly any press, it makes me long for a change. I know viewers like us can’t play much of a role in any of that except good ‘ol word of mouth or in this case, a keyboard.

So, how bout you, dear reader? What say you about our discussion and please….answer the question above if you are so moved!

Thanks for playing!



 the Keeping It Reel staff


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Francesca Carboni Perry permalink
    January 26, 2010 10:09 am

    It’s strange how values have changed over the years – remember how Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra bankrupted the studio? And then Heaven’s Gate? Cleopatra is still fun today, and Heaven’s Gate , which was a huge disastrous bomb is now seen in a totally different light. I remember reading about how Cruise was paid $15 million for a film and thinking that was ridiculous and obscene. Now with Avatar costing far more than the equivalent of a third world debt, one wonders how on earth it can recuperate its costs. Scary.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      January 26, 2010 1:13 pm

      What’s scary is that there is a whole generation growing up who think that such films are the norm. They will expect eveything louder, bigger and faster in IMAX and 3D. It becomes less about the film or a film and all about hype.

  2. Francesca Carboni Perry permalink
    January 26, 2010 10:10 am

    Oh and Shutter Island – Scorcese plus DiCaprio – a must must see.

  3. windi permalink
    January 26, 2010 3:36 pm

    Ummm… I kind of liked Lost in Space! hahaha. I rented that for the kids a while back and it was fun in a dumb kind of way.

    after that many weeks on top, hasn’t everyone in the United States seen the movie by now?? Is the rating based on money taken in for the week, or how many tickets are sold, or what? Either way, you’d think it would have been off the number one by now.

    I really liked Avatar, I really did, but I’ve seen it, and I’ve moved on. Is it multiple viewers that’s keeping it #1?

    Cameron isn’t REALLY going to bring Titanic back in 3-D is he?????

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      January 26, 2010 4:03 pm

      Well, I’ll admit it was fun, sci-fi fluff. Oldman (once again) made that movie. The retractable body armor worn by Joey, er, Matthew LeBlanc was pretty cool too. I’m a big fan of the orig. TV series so it was fun seeing it brought to screen.

      I think what’s funny is “Titanic” was usurped by a movie that was generally panned, which proves that quality doesn’t really matter. It’s really just whatever the masses want and by 15 weeks, everyone had seen and re-seen it.

      It’s the same thing with “Avatar” now. It’s huge word-of-mouth. People are re-seeing it. they can’t stop talking about it. Some think it’s the greatest movie ever made. Really. Now, with awards season, some that haven’t seen it are finally catching up. It remains #1 because of all the above. And if it wins Best Picture at the Oscars come March 7th….look for it to be around much longer.

      Yes, Cameron’s talked about resufacing “Titanic” for a 2011 3-D release! Cuz, you know, the people want it!

  4. January 26, 2010 3:38 pm

    If you want to hear James Cameron and Peter Jackson talk about the future of 3D and IMAX, check out the Creative Screenwriting podcast on iTunes. There’s a Q&A episode with Cameron and Jackson at ComicCon, and Cameron drops the bomb about Titanic in 3D. Get ready for Jack & Rose fever, round 2.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: