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Rerelease redux: Was the opening of the 'Avatar' special edition a disappointment?

August 31, 2010 |  4:42 pm

Avata
No sooner did we write that the release of the special edition of "Avatar" this past weekend was a disappointment than we received a slew of comments and e-mails asking why we thought it a failure (politely, of course).

So let's take a closer look.

The movie grossed about $4 million on 812 screens here in the U.S. Several readers pointed out that the per-screen number this averages out to -- just about $5,000 -- was among the strongest of the weekend. And that number is indeed not terrible for a new opener -- except for the fact that "Avatar" wasn't a new opener; it had the benefit of eight months of marketing and buzz behind it. This is hardly some unknown character drama that has to fight for every ticket.

Throw in the fact that the film had the benefit of premium ticket prices, and was going up against some pretty weak competition, and $5,000 doesn't look quite so solid. If you're scribbling on the back of an envelope -- assuming conservatively about a dozen shows per screen over the three days and $15 for a premium 3-D ticket -- that's an average of about 28 people at each showing. If you saw that many people in a theater you were in, you'd think that was OK, but wonder if the film is getting much beyond the hard-core or the really late adopters.

In the per-screen pecking order, the "Avatar" re-release was better than the second weekend of "The Switch" and "Lottery Ticket," but not as good as the first weekend of "Takers" and "The Last Exorcism." Which is ... Fine? Mediocre? Not an overwhelming success?

Others pointed out that this was a weak time to release a big movie, so you have to take the numbers in context. Well, it was Fox's decision to release it this past weekend, and clearly they thought it would be a propitious time for the film. And they had reason to. In fact, outside of "The Expendables," the new "Avatar"  had the benefit of being the only action spectacle playing in any kind of wide release this past weekend. Clog the weekend up with a few more wide releases and it's likely the movie's numbers dip.

None of this is really a knock on the new "Avatar." It was a tall order to come on the heels of a DVD release and assume a few minutes of extra footage would restart the phenomenon. And much of this is found money for Fox. So it's not even the worst gambit in the world. It's just not exactly a major event either.

--Steven Zeitchik

Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Avatar": Credit: 20th Century Fox


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