Cameron’s Avatar Has Itself a Merry BIG X-Mas!

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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.

This was a banner Christmas weekend, ending a year where the box office was generally up from last year with not only the biggest Christmas weekend ever, but a historic record-setting weekend with the Top 4 grossing more than $200 million on their own, and the Top 10 grossing $260 million, up nearly $100 million (!) from Christmas weekend last year.

Much of that record can be accounted for by three movies and leading the way was James Cameron’s unstoppable sci-fi epic Avatar (20th Century Fox), which once again took first place with an estimated $75.6 million over the three days to set a new Christmas weekend record. The previous record holder was Meet the Fockers with $46.1 million in 2005. Down just 1.8% from its opening weekend, Avatar also holds claim to the biggest second weekend ever for a movie ever, surpassing last year’s gigantic blockbuster hit The Dark Knight ($75.2 million). Having grossed $212.7 million in ten days–the seventh movie to cross $200 million and currently the seventh highest grossing movie of the year–Avatar is clearly on its way to top $300 million. The question is whether it can pass the $402 million made by Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to take over the top spot as the highest-grossing movie of 2009. By comparison, The Dark Knight had grossed $100 million more than Avatar after ten days, so Cameron has a long way to go if he wants his new movie to take its rightful place behind his previous dramatic feature Titanic as the second-highest grossing movie domestically of all time.

Internationally, Avatar added $152.8 million this weekend to push its overseas total to $410.9 million and worldwide total to an amazing $623.6 million after just 10 days in release.

Guy Ritchie’s take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros.), starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, took second place with a more than respectable $65.4 million in its first three days, averaging $18,000 in 3,626 theaters. Besides also defeating the previous Christmas weekend record, it also became the second-highest grossing movie to not open at #1 behind Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, which faced the second weekend of Shrek 2.

After grossing roughly $27 million on Wednesday and Thursday, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (20th Century Fox), the sequel to Alvin and the Chipmunks (for those who couldn’t decypher that cryptic title), brought in $50.2 million over the weekend in 3,646 theaters, bringing its five-day total to $77 million. The first movie grossed $44.3 million in its opening weekend but it also opened earlier in the season, so it took ten days to gross the same amount before going on to gross $217 million.

Opening in fourth place, the Nancy Meyers romantic comedy It’s Complicated (Universal), starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, earned a solid $22.1 million its opening weekend in 2,886 theaters.

Expanding nationwide, Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (Paramount), starring George Clooney, duked it out with Sandra Bullock’s hit drama The Blind Side (Warner Bros.) for fifth place with just under $12 million each, according to estimates, with Reitman’s comedy coming out slightly ahead by just
$25,000 at this point. The Blind Side has grossed $184 million after five weeks in theaters and looks to become the eighth movie to cross the $200 million mark sometime in the next week or so.

Disney’s animated fantasy tale The Princess and the Frog placed seventh for the weekend (dropping five places!) with $8.9 million. It has grossed $63 million to date.

Rob Marshall’s musical Nine (Weinstein Co.), starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Marion Cottilard and Kate Hudson, expanded nationwide into 1,412 theaters but did relatively poor business, grossing just $5.5 million over the weekend for eighth place.

The Sarah Jessica Parker-Hugh Grant relationship comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? (Sony) also took a plunge, dropping five places to ninth with $5 million, while Clint Eastwood’s Invictus (Warner Bros.) starring Morgan Freeman took tenth place with $4.4 million and a three-week total of just $23.4 million.

Opening in four theaters in New York and L.A., Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Sony Pictures Classics) brought in $130,000 in its first weekend, averaging roughly $32,000 per venue. It expands nationwide into roughly 400 – 500 theaters on January 8.

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