Man is born merely to die.


Okay, so Avatar reviews are starting to come in, after some very cutsey Twitter responses from a number of people who have seen the film, ranging from the famous to the famous Internet types, including Chud’s own Nick Nunziata. Word is – wait for it – great. No one has yet splashed the film with any amount of cold water, and though the Variety review notes that the film’s scripting is a tad on the simplistic side, and suggests that the conclusion is a tad forced, the rest of the review raves about the technology and the visceral action. So far that is the most negative review on the market.

There will undoubtedly be a backlash on the Internet and a number of negative reviews (this ain’t no Hayao Miyazaki film), but the Internet – especially among the movie-fan nerd-town is a shockingly insular and thoroughly unrespectable market. There are few films to speak of that were driven solely by Internet interest, even as old media crumbles. David Poland has talked about the geek eight (a film that markets to the geeks but has no outward support can open to that), but – ultimately – you can’t say that that number is all geeks all the time. Films have advertising, and eight may be the bottom line for a certain type of film, but by no means is there a true sense of the population of ticket buyers for anything, except in the case of a blockbuster, which generally requires more than one facet of humanity. The Dark Knight may have been a film for a certain set of boys, but it didn’t make that money just cause. And though it’s often said that Twilight is a girl thing, many a man must have gone to a see a film that does over $200 Million, if only for the often repeated canard that sometimes “film nights” are a bargaining chip for sexual favors. Anecdotal evidence suggests this is not that uncommon, though that may just be an excuse.

Avatar has one thing in its favor at the moment, in that it gets an opening weekend, and then a four day weekend with Christmas, and then another four day with New Years. Where the film likely has an opening weekend ceiling of a hundred (and no one is predicting that much anywhere as of now, $60 Million was being thrown around and $80 was being speculated), if it can maintain a light drop off for those two weekends, it could be getting as high as 250-$300 by the end of the year. That’s the good news (if it is as good as word suggests), though that is being exceptionally generous.

The problem is attention spans, and audience interest. Fanboys dedicated themselves to The Dark Knight pre-release for reasons best left to clinicians. Currently Sherlock Holmes is tracking stronger, and has a wider appeal. With an extra week to go. Action films – outside of something like Taken – have steady regular drops – especially event films which are partly built on opening weekends. As I’ve said here, if Avatar doesn’t open to a hundred, the odds of it getting to $400 Million becomes increasingly unlikely. The one thing it has going for it is the 3-D screen action, to which it doesn’t have a direct competitor until Alice in Wonderland in March. But where Titanic could play long because the early months in 1998 were weak, here there is direct competition every other week, and most importantly Holmes. That’s not to say the two can’t live with each other, but just the same.

When I started this column, I suggested I will always be wrong, and I will always be wrong, but I tend to be wrong in a consistent manner. I have no rooting interest in box office, other than I want filmmakers I like to do well and filmmakers I don’t to do poorly, but Adam Shankman and Shawn Levy will probably always be more successful than most of the great filmmakers of our age. When I make predictions, when I talk about this stuff, I am working off the memory and the stats of how things have done in the past. I try to find the closest parallel to a number of films and make guestimates based on that mixed with the current tracking and the wind (and then I look at the moon and tides and sigh, but that’s just me). The heat is turning up on the film in some ways, but print and Internet media excitement has to translate, and it doesn’t always. I keep seeing The New World charting as one of the best films of the 00’s, but what I don’t see is a lot of love for Revenge of the Sith, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or King Kong (not to mention Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). All five of which received mixed to positive (mostly the latter) at the time. People will always love all five, but only one is ascending to classic status, partly because critics can decree some things, but mostly in the history books. I constantly make this point because people often conflate quality with box office (not necessarily you, my learned and awesome readers), but also because much of the negative buzz on Avatar was addressed around the shitty marketing (which is inarguable) and the expense (also inarguable), which puts the film in a corner for being profitable, because if the film cost half a billion dollars, then it ever being profitable lives on a wing and a prayer of being one of the biggest films of all time. Of course, that was the case with Titanic, but rarely do filmmakers catch lightning in a bottle twice in a row.


This weekend sees The Princess and the Frog going wide and Invictus going wide, also the expansion of Up in the Air. The holidays suggest Disney could float this one to $100 Million, and Clint Eastwood always has an audience, but it will likely need the critical support it hasn’t completely gotten to be championed as Million Dollar Baby was. And though Gran Torino was a phenomenon, it was also a chance for people to see Eastwood on the big screen for the last time. But don’t be surprised if it gets usurped by the Bullock film.

So… Are you wearing any underwear?:
1. The Princess and the Frog – $24.7 Million
2. Invictus – $14 Million
3. The Blind Side – $13.5 Million
4. New Moon – $6 Million
5. A Christmas Carol – $5.5 Million

And on Sunday I’ll wear my best.