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'Avatar' posts biggest-ever non-summer Monday, Tuesday

December 23, 2009 | 12:55 pm

AvatarJapanAny worries about "Avatar" after it got off to less than a phenomenal start this past weekend have been erased.

20th Century Fox's costly 3D tentpole movie sold $16.4 million worth of tickets on Monday and $16 million on Tuesday in the U.S. and Canada, according to the studio. That's the highest-ever domestic gross on either day for a film playing outside of summer.

Including flicks that opened in summer, traditionally the strongest time of the year for moviegoing, "Avatar" had the third-biggest non-holiday Monday (excluding Memorial Day and July 4 weekends) ever and the third-biggest Tuesday ever.

Huge weekday ticket sales for "Avatar" are yet another sign, along with its higher-than-predicted Sunday, that word-of-mouth for the movie is fantastic and spreading fast.

According to people who have seen audience polling, "Avatar" will probably decline very modestly, if at all, this coming weekend compared with its $77-million debut. Combined with the $109.5 million it has grossed so far, it will probably be close to and possibly over $200 million by Sunday and on its way to an ultimate domestic gross of at least $350 million.

Combined with even bigger grosses from foreign countries, including a debut in Japan today that is expected to be very strong, a final worldwide total of more than $1 billion is looking more and more likely for "Avatar."

The $430 million that Fox, along with Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Partners, spent to produce and sell the movie is looking like a better investment every day.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: James Cameron, second from right, his wife Suzy Amis, center, and producer Jon Landau, second from left, appear at the Japan premiere of "Avatar" in Tokyo on Monday.