The weather outside was frightful, but the grosses for Avatar were delightful. Despite losing anywhere from 18 percent (New York) to 86 percent (Baltimore) of its audience on Saturday thanks to the eastern corridor blizzard, James Cameron’s technical marvel is still estimated to have the second highest December debut on record—Avatar‘s $73 million opening trails only I Am Legend, which started with $77.2 million in 2007. Worldwide, the results were even more spectacular: with an opening global gross of $232.1 million, Avatar is the highest grossing non-sequel, non-franchise film ever. (Hey, it’s convoluted, but it still counts!) As we do each Monday, here’s a breakdown of the top five at the box office.
1. Avatar: $73 million ($73 million total)
James Cameron said Avatar would be a game-changer, and, sure enough, it was. A record-breaking 71 percent of Avatar‘s gross came from 3-D showings; in dollars, that accounts for nearly $52 million of the $73 million total. Add in the higher ticket prices for the IMAX showings—where Avatar also broke records—and this looks like the type of film that could be capable of crossing $300 million domestic without breaking a sweat. Eerie parallel alert! When it was released in December of 1998, Titanic also wound up with the second biggest December opening ever.
2. The Princess and The Frog: $12.2 million ($44.7 million total)
Maybe The Princess and The Frog is a dud after all. Just one week after a lackluster opening—one that we still thought would lead to long-term success—the Disney film dropped 50 percent to bring its total to an underwhelming $44.7 million. This isn’t terrible of course—Frog could still find its way to $80 million—but we can’t imagine it’s what everyone was expecting from Disney’s return to traditional animation. Worse, things won’t get any easier when Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel opens on Wednesday and vies for the kiddie audience.
3. The Blind Side: $10 million ($164.7 million total)
For a fifth weekend in a row The Blind Side found a home inside the top-three, which means it’s the only film of 2009 to do so (for completists: Taken turned this trick as well, but didn’t do it over five consecutive weeks). As if that weren’t enough, it also blitzed past The Proposal to become Sandra Bullock’s biggest film ever. With The Blind Side cruising towards $200 million, we have to wonder: is it time to start taking Ms. Bullock—fresh off nominations from both the Golden Globes and SAG Awards—seriously as a Best Actress contender?
4. Did You Hear About the Morgans?: $7 million ($7 million total)
Apparently, you did hear about the Morgans and decided to stay home. Sony executives can—and did—blame the weather for this lackluster debut, but we seriously doubt sunny skies would have made a whole lot of difference. Put it this way: even the much-maligned All About Steve scored a bigger opening weekend ($11 million) than The Morgans did.
5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon: $4.3 million ($274.5 million total)
How about New Moon still hanging around like that poster of Robert Pattison in your sister’s bedroom? Despite losing 600 theaters, the ‘tween smash was able to hold off Invictus—down 52 percent, Clint Eastwood’s seasonal entry into the awards derby rang up only $4.1 million in weekend two for a total of $15.8 million—to place in the top-five for a fifth consecutive week. Speaking of top-fives, New Moon also cracked that list for 2009 and will pass The Hangover sometime this week to become the fourth highest grossing film of the year. Director Chris Weitz might not be the King of the World, but we’re not sure he really cares right now.