I’m having a real Los Angeles conundrum right now. I don’t know which food truck I want to go to tonight. Decisions, decisions.
IT’S JAMES CAMERON’S WORLD, YOU JUST WANT TO LIVE IN IT
Though I’m remiss in making two bondage references in print over the course of the week, I must. James Cameron has achieved complete dominance over the box office. Cameron has made the box office his slave. I say that because at this point there are only four options for the final gross of Avatar: It’s the highest grossing film of all time both domestically and internationally, it’s the number two highest grossing film of all time both domestically and internationally, or some combination of the two. As of Wednesday, it is $159 Million away from The Dark Knight, and $227 Million away from Titanic. Internationally, it’s already the number two of all time, with $711 Million separating it from James Cameron’s last film.
If the domestic seems daunting, the Thursday number should be around $7 Million, and conservative estimates (a 40% drop) would put it at around $40 Million, with a grand total of around $420 Million (putting it at #8 all time domestic). Of course, this is the first non-Holiday weekend since the film has opened, which means the fall off is likely to be stronger, as it has been on the weekdays (they’ve fallen off about 60% from the holiday weekdays), so if worse came to worse, a 60% weekend tumble – which would be hella strange and mean the phenomenon is waning – would mean a $30 Million dollar weekend (closer to $27 Million for a straight -60%, but who wants to do math?) and that sort of fade would suggest that the film would crash out domestically before – though perhaps near – $500 Million, half a billion dollars, and the only way Batman’s deuce would remain unvarnished (for those offended, I could have gone with “Avatar goes number two worldwide Wednesday” as a headline. But I thought it tacky).
The biggest question about Avatar at this juncture is that we have seen three straight weeks of non-dropping. Last weekend it was off less than ten percent from the weekend before. But the holidays, etc. may have boosted the weekend takes. This weekend the picture is doomed to be off more substantially, but the question is if there’s a leveling out (as there was with Titanic) after that. That is the question that remains unanswerable, but as some have calculated, if it plays like Return of the King then it will – without question – pass Titanic. What is interesting is that we don’t know if it will play like Titanic played.
There are a number of things have changed indelibly about the industry since Titanic, and the big one is home video, in that the DVD revolution changed the way average Joes could watch and collect films. More so than video tapes, which were more geared to the video store and that meant high initial costs outside of the occasional phenomenon that would be sold at supermarkets, and everything else that went for $100 or so a pop (not that video stores always paid $100, generally on bulk they paid less. But think about that in 1986, when rental prices were closer to $2 -$3. To turn a profit, a tape would have to be watched at least forty to fifty times. Which explains why tapes used to always look crappy). With the DVD revolution, and now digital increasing its share (we’re not there yet), there’s not always a point to going back to the theater, which has made film even more front loaded. There’s also the threat of piracy, which exists for sure, but it’s broad impact depends on how unscrupulous the mainstream is. Though the Internet talks about it, of course they do, they’re the internet, and we are aware of all internet traditions (copyright http://lefarkins.blogspot.com). I know people who have dipped their toes in piracy and backed away, I know people who will pirate some things but not others, and if you’ve ever seen the pirated theatrical videos, they’re much like the street tapes and DVD’s that have been sold on the corner for years now.
What Avatar has in its favor is that until prices come substantially down in 3-D televisions – and that’s going to be a niche industry for at least five or six years or as long as the economy is in the shitter – Avatar is very much a theatrical experience the likes of which have not been seen since… well, Titanic. And even with the inflated ticket prices for Imax and 3-D, that’s a shitload cheaper than the equipment prices for such a home viewing experience (on top of the mainstream not necessarily aware how soon it will be available as a reality at home. I just watched The Final Destination at home Red-and-Blue-style and it was terrible, both the film and the 3-D). Right now Avatar is singularly a theatrical experience, so much so that the biggest obstacle the film will face is sharing 3-D screens when Alice in Wonderland comes out.
As I said to friends, the second weekend on Avatar was the tell that this was going to do over $400, and possibly do Titanic numbers, and next weekend is the tell with the film on how it levels out. Right now it’s going to drop a bit, and that’s just that. But after this week, we’ll see if it just does something in the $500 range, or if The Sky is the Limit, and we’ll know if this will keep on pressing on.
IF THEY PREDICT, KILL ‘EM
Whoo boy, you almost feel bad for the sacrificial first releases of January this week. Daybreakers has the best shot of opening, followed by Leap Year, but because of genre interest, the final tally may favor the rom-com. Youth in Revolt is a Michael Cera film, and though word is mixed to good, this doesn’t have a strong concept behind it. This says nothing about Scott Pilgrim, just as a January release says little about most stars. People like Cera, though they may have grown somewhat weary (especially if they saw Year One), but they’ll go if they’re sold. Right now they’re not on this, especially with the dippy ad campaign, so it probably won’t crack in the top 5.
Let’s rack them and pack them, we’ll be phantoms in 15:
1) Avatardis - $47 Million
2) Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 - $18.4 Million
3) Sherlock Holmes – $17 Million
4) Daybreakers – $15.5 Million
5) Leap Year - $11.7 Million
For the record I’m going high on Avatar, a safer bet would be around $40, but I don’t know. There’s also the possibility that it will provide more suction on the rest of the box office, as this looks to be a very strong week for January. I’ll be back. Sunday.