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Weekend Box Office Estimates (January 1-3, 2010): Avatar Crushes 3rd Weekend Record With $68.3M; Passes $350M Domestic in 17 Days; Fastest Ever to $1B Worldwide

UPDATE: The weekend actuals have been posted here.

The records continue to fall. According to studio estimates,  Avatar once again exceeded expectations with an estimated $68.3 million in its third weekend (-9.7%), pushing its domestic cume to an incredible estimated $352.111 million through just 17 days of release (2nd fastest ever to $350 million).  The film also surpassed $1B worldwide over the weekend, which is a record for fastest ever to that mark.  Heading into the weekend, estimates had the film falling between 20-30%.

The daily breakdown is as follows: $25.3M for Friday (+69.5%), $25.8M for Saturday (+2%) and $17.2M for Sunday (-33.3%).  Once again, Fox is being conservative with their Sunday projection, so don’t be too surprised if the final weekend number comes in higher than their estimate.

Avatar smashed the 3rd weekend record by more than 50% (Spider-Man’s $45.036 million)  and continues to be on track to pass The Dark Knight ($533.345 million) and perhaps Titanic ($600.788 million).  I’m confident it’ll zoom past $500 million and my current estimate holds at a range of between $550-625 million.  When all is said and done, director James Cameron will likely have the top two highest-grossing films of all-time.

Rounding out the top three, both Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel had successful 2nd weekends.  Sherlock Holmes was down 38.5% for a 2nd place estimated $38.385 million (an estimated $140.675 million cume), while ‘Alvin 2’ dropped 25.1% for a 3rd place $36.6 million (an estimated $157.345 million cume).

The weekend chart is posted below. Here’s an updated Avatar vs. The Dark Knight comparison chart (click to enlarge):

Rank Movie Weekend Gross (Estimates) Change from Last Weekend Theaters
1 Avatar $68,300,000 -9.7% 3,461
2 Sherlock Holmes $38,385,000 -38.5% 3,626
3 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel $36,600,000 -25.1% 3,747
4 It’s Complicated $18,700,000 -15.4% 2,897
5 The Blind Side $12,650,000 +10.3% 2,926
6 Up in the Air $11,350,000 +0.7% 1,895
7 The Princess and the Frog $10,013,000 +11.2% 3,328
8 Did You Hear About The Morgans? $5,200,000 +4.0% 2,718
9 Nine $4,250,000 -22.1% 1,412
10 Invictus $4,130,000 +2.1% 2,170

Source: Box Office Guru