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'Avatar' midnight ticket sales: $3.5 million

AvatarFans "Avatar" may be the highest-profile movie of the year, but it's not one that got out hordes of fans early in the morning.

James Cameron's new 3-D science-fiction flick grossed $3.54 million from shows that started at or soon after midnight today in the U.S. and Canada, according to distributor 20th Century Fox.

Despite the huge hype for the film, there turned out to be a relatively small number of Cameron devotees who came out to watch a two-hour-and-42-minute film after 12 a.m.

The top-grossing midnight debuts of all time, November's "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and July's "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" started off with $26.3 million and $22.2 million, respectively.

Those movies, like most with big midnight bows, were sequels or adaptations with a built-in fan base eager to see the newest installment of their favorite series as soon as possible.

The modest early-morning bow for "Avatar" may be a sign that the picture won't be driven by rabid fanboy interest on opening day, which often leads to fast falling ticket sales going forward. Instead, it will rely on marketing and word of mouth that, if strong, could see the picture play well through the holidays and into the new year.

Based on pre-release polling, the consensus among most studio executives has been that "Avatar" will open to roughly $80 million domestically this weekend. Early signs are good that it will meet or exceed that mark. 20th Century Fox Senior Vice President of Domestic Distribution Chris Aronson said that early-morning ticket sales are "light years ahead" of "I Am Legend," which opened to $77.2 million on Dec. 14, 2007, despite collecting only $1.7 million from its midnight screenings.

Aronson noted that 3-D screens, which carry a ticket price surcharge, are driving the vast majority of initial business for "Avatar." About 65% of this morning's ticket sales came from standard digital 3-D screens, and nearly 20% more was from giant-sized Imax 3-D screens.

That's a very good sign for Fox, as Cameron used pricey new 3-D technology to create the movie and much of the promotion has focused on it. The studio and its financing partners Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners need a big opening and a long run to turn "Avatar" into a success as they spent $310 million to produce the picture, a figure brought down to about $280 million after tax credits. In addition, Fox is spending about $150 million on worldwide marketing and distribution.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Fans line up for the premiere of "Avatar" in London last week. Credit: Daniel Deme/EPE.

Comments () | Archives (5)

You need to take into account that most will want to see it in 3D.

I'm no fanboy, but I saw it at midnight (helps that I live across the street from an Imax theater). "Avatar" really is a wonderful and engrossing film. I recommend it.

I just saw AVATAR in 3D and LOVED it. It's gorgeous. Kind of like a Dances With Wolves on the planet Pandora. Beautiful. Exciting. Moving. Thrilling. Well worth the price of the ticket. It's the first 3D movie I've ever seen and it was amazing. I think the LA Times reviewer said 'we've never experienced anything like this' and he's right. I loved the image references to The Abyss and Aliens that Mr. Cameron threw in, and why not? He created those images so he owns 'em. The actors were fabulous, and Sigourney rules. She's been the best and brightest woman in space since Alien. I loved AVATAR. And, of course, I have to see it AGAIN because there's so much to take in! It's long, but so marvelous. Radiant. Bravo Mr. Cameron. I'm giving you a standing O.

will that "standing O" show off your "O face" as well?

Saw Avatar yesterday on IMAX 3-D. My daughter got motion sickness, which is a problem she has never had before. The "camera" in this movie is virtually NEVER still. something is always moving, either in the extreme foreground, mid-ground or background. That, combined with the giant IMAX screen, makes this movie like one of those simulator rides at a theme park. As for the movie itself, I thought it was terrific. Absolutely beautifully done. Stephen Lang was perfectly cast. Story-wise, I would like to have seen his character arc go differently. It would have been a far less predictable story if Lang's character had finally changed sides at the very end. As it was, the arc of the Jake Sully character was completely predictable, to the point that I knew he would ultimate (spoiler) discard his human body and become the alien(/spoiler). Overall, I give the film a 9 on a scale of 10. A truly breakthrough cinematic experience that drags you into the story despite the overwhelming effects and state-of-the-art product values.


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