Well, here we are. After years of production and months of hope above hype and backlash against backlash, James Cameron’s famously-labeled “game-changer” Avatar has finally unfolded before a great many of our eyes — $73 million worth, give or take an Eastern Seaboard blizzard — and about as many people were blown away by the top-notch 3-D spectacle as they were irritated by the well-worn story and pandering parallels to our present day problems. Time will tell if Avatar has the legs to earn back its alleged budget of $300-400 million (fans are already keen on repeat viewings, and it’s very much an awards contender now), though next week’s (very fun) Sherlock Holmes stands to have even broader appeal and success.
In second place was The Princess and the Frog with $12.2 million, for a domestic total of $44.8 million. That’s maybe half of its reported production cost, a ratio which brought Disney’s hand-drawn animation down to begin with when 2004’s Home on the Range took in a mere $50 million against a budget twice that size. With Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel competing for the kiddie dollar as of Wednesday, it’s tough to say whether the studio will be able to justify many pending returns to form…
Coming in third was that persistent bugger, The Blind Side, with $10 million, while Did You Hear About the Morgans? debuted in fourth with a paltry $7 million (a fitting figure, since 1996’s medical drama Extreme Measures was the last pairing between Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker and opened to identical numbers). New Moon came in at fifth with $4.4 million, while Invictus slipped to sixth with $4.2 million. After losing most of its 3-D screens to Avatar, A Christmas Carol fell to seventh with $3.4 million, while Up in the Air continued its ascent by adding a hundred more screens and claiming an additional $3.1 million in eighth place. Brothers hung in at ninth with $2.6 million, and Old Dogs rounded out the top ten with $2.3 million, which puts its total gross to date just above the opening weekend of Wild Hogs and has resulted in Disney’s next shitty-sounding Robin Williams vehicle getting the axe. Law of diminishing returns? I owe you one.
Rob Marshall’s lackluster adaptation of the musical Nine posted the highest per-theater average of the week, with $250,000 between four locations. It goes wide on Christmas, with hopes of luring in all those female teens who can’t crash the R-rated It’s Complicated, all of the older women who heard Up in the Air was kind of a downer, and all of the gays who can bring themselves to resist the bromantic banter of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law if it means hearing Kate Hudson chant “Guido, Guido, Guido!” twenty times in a row — the one spectacle that even James Cameron’s precious Avatar can’t offer.