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James Cameron’s Avatar Opens Domestically With $77.025M Weekend, $242.3M Worldwide) [UPDATED]

UPDATE: Fox says the weekend number was $77.025M which falls just short of I Am Legend’s December record of ($77.2M).  Fox says overseas numbers were stronger though ($165.5M overseas for a worldwide opening of $242.3M).  I’ll write a final article with complete actual data shortly.

The original article follows below.

Remember that impressive, albeit non-record-breaking, $73M estimated weekend for Avatar?  Well, forget about it.  The studio severely under-projected Sunday’s grosses (and Fri/Sat estimates may also have been slightly off), and the film is now the #1 best-grossing December film of all time with an estimated $77.3 million (numbers may change some when actuals are released but Fox insiders remain confident it’ll hold the new record when finals are released). 

Avatar also broke the all-time IMAX record, grossing $9.5 million (or 13% of its domestic weekend take) in the 178 venues (18 of the top 20 domestic theaters were IMAX).  It added another $4.1 million from the 58 international IMAX theaters playing the film for a worldwide IMAX record of $13.6M.  The previous record-holder was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($11.3M).

The revised domestic total brings the worldwide cume to an estimated $236.5 million ($77.3M Domestic / $159.2M overseas).  It’s possible the overseas number could be adjusted also.

The original $73.0M weekend estimate was based on Friday and Saturday estimates of $27.0M and $25.65M, respectively.  The studio projected Sunday’s grosses to come in at $20.35M (or a 21% Sat-Sun drop), but the estimate came closer to $25M, or just a 3% decline Sat-Sun.  A 3% Sat-Sun drop indicates very, very strong word of mouth and bodes well for a continued strong presence at the box office.

Avatar played in 3,452 theaters domestically — 2,023 of which, including 178 IMAX locations, were 3D for a per-theater average of more than $22,000.

I’ll have the final actual numbers for the weekend when they’re released later today.

Source: Variety (subscription)