James Cameron launched his science-fiction epic Avatar into a safe orbit as the costly film soared to No. 1 with $73 million domestically and $159.2 million overseas, for a $232.2 million worldwide total.
With that big a start, distributor 20th Century Fox was quick to proclaim it made a good investment with the estimated $400 million spent to make and market the film, which is Cameron’s first narrative feature since 1997′s Titanic, the king of modern blockbusters.
“Absolutely. No question,” said Chris Aronson, head of distribution for the studio, which reported stellar reaction in exit polls from audiences after seeing Avatar. ”The word of mouth is something that I don’t know I’ve ever seen in this business before.”
Avatar was a test case for the future of digital 3-D projection, which until now has been a hit with audiences mainly on animated family films.
The film fell short of the record for December debuts of $77.2 million set two years ago by Will Smith’s I Am Legend. But it did break the record for a film opening in 3-D, previously held by last summer’s Up with $68.1 million.
“What they spent on this movie was totally justified, and they’re going to more than earn it back,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com.
Avatar stars Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in a love story amid human-alien conflict on a distant moon in the 22nd century.
Storms kept many people at home in our area, cutting into weekend movie business.
“The weather really, really hurt,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony, whose comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans?, opened at a weak No. 4 with $7 million. Sony had expected the movie to debut at about $8 million.
The movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant as a couple whose crumbling marriage gets a fresh jolt after they see a murder and are sent into witness protection.
The overall box office shot up on the strength of Avatar. Hollywood’s domestic revenues came in at $134 million, up 51.5 percent from the same weekend last year, when Yes Man opened at No. 1 with $18.3 million, according to Hollywood.com.