UPDATE #3: Avatar Soars Despite Heavy Snowstorms

UPDATE #1: The IMAX Corporation is reporting that Cameron’s “Avatar” set a new record for an IMAX opening, grossing $9.5 million or 13% of its domestic weekend gross from the 178 domestic IMAX venues where it was playing and another $4.1 million from the 58 IMAX screens internationally over the three-day record.

UPDATE #2: “Avatar” performed better than expected this weekend domestically with a total of $77.3 million, allowing the film to break “I Am Legend’s” ($77.2 million) record to become the biggest December opener ever! The film dropped just 3% from Saturday to Sunday, which is pretty impressive. Internationally, “Avatar” opened to $159.2 million, putting its worldwide total at $236.5 million.

UPDATE #3: 20th Century Fox’s official number for “Avatar” domestically is $77,025,481, which falls just short of “I Am Legend’s” record of $77,211,321. Internationally the confirmed number is $165.5 million, putting the film’s worldwide total at $242.5 million so far.

The ComingSoon.net Box Office Report has been updated with studio estimates for the weekend. Click here for the full box office estimates of the top 12 films and then check back on Monday for the final figures based on actual box office.

Snowstorms battered the Northeast all day on Saturday and it greatly affected the box office in those regions as theaters closed early, but that didn’t stop James Cameron’s sci-fi fantasy epic Avatar (20th Century Fox) from becoming the second-highest opening movie of December with $73 million in 3,452 theaters including a record number of IMAX and Digital 3D venues, many of which had sold out before the weekend. ERC reports that Cameron’s latest movie grossed $225 million worldwide in 106 territories in its first weekend, which means its well on its way to the $600 million plus it needs to recoup its reported cost. Considering its CinemaScore exit polls across the board were either “A” or “A+,” one can expect that the movie will continue to do big business over the holidays, potentially becoming the seventh movie of 2009 to cross the $250 million mark and even the third to $300 million. (Also, as our pals at ScreenRant.com noted, Avatar also can claim to have the biggest opening for an original property i.e. not a sequel or being based on an existing thing, beating out Pixar’s The Incredibles and Finding Nemo for that record.)

Disney’s animated fantasy tale The Princess and the Frog dropped to second place with $12.2 million, down nearly 50% from its first weekend in wide release, having grossed $45 million since opening on Thanksgiving weekend.

Sandra Bullock’s hit drama The Blind Side (Warner Bros.) dropped to third place with $10 million in its fifth weekend, allowing it to reach $164.7 million, officially making it Bullock’s highest-grossing movie to date.

Sony’s Did You Hear About the Morgans?, starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant, didn’t fare very well, opening in fourth place with just $7 million in 2,718 theaters.

The blockbuster romantic drama The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit Entertainment) dropped one notch to fifth place with $4.4 million bringing its total to $274.5 million.

Dropping to sixth, Clint Eastwood’s Invictus (Warner Bros.) starring Morgan Freeman made $4.2 million in its second weekend bringing its total to $15.8 million, followed by Disney’s A Christmas Carol with $3.4 million and a total gross of $130.7 million since opening in early November.

Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (Paramount), starring George Clooney, expanded into 175 theaters and moved into the Top 10 in eighth place with $3.1 million and $8.1 million total in its last weekend before expanding nationwide on Wednesday, December 23.

In ninth place was Jim Sheridan’s star-studded drama Brothers (Lionsgate) with $2.6 million and $22 million total, followed by the Disney comedy Old Dogs in tenth place with $2.3 million and $43.5 million total

The Top 10 grossed roughly $122 million, up nearly 60% from last year when the three new movies–Jim Carrey’s Yes Man, Will Smith’s 7 Pounds and the animated The Tale of Despereaux–only grossed $42 million between them.

In limited release, Rob Marshall’s musical Nine (Weinstein Co.) starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Marion Cottilard and Kate Hudson opened in exclusive runs in New York and L.A. where it scored $247 thousand in four theaters, averaging $62 thousand per site. Scott Cooper’s country music drama Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight), starring Jeff Bridges in what many are considering an Oscar-worthy role, also opened in New York and L.A. on Wednesday, grossing $110,000 in four locations. Emily Blunt starring as The Young Victoria (Apparition) brought in $148 thousand in 20 theaters, or roughly $7,400 per site.

Click here for the full box office results of the top 12 films.

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