Avatar: It's Not This Weekend That Counts, Luckily

Surprisingly, given the hype ahead of time, it's looking like Avatar won't break I Am Legend's December opening weekend box office record. Have movies not been changed forever after all, or is there something else going on?

Despite estimates for the movie's opening weekend having been raised following Thursday's midnight opening, Friday's tally of "only" $27 million has made industry viewers nervous that Legend's $77.2 million record will be left untouched by the end of the weekend, despite increased ticket prices from IMAX sales, in part because of winter storms keeping potential audiences indoors.

Nonetheless, the Friday tally was Fox's biggest opening day outside of the summer blockbuster season, and even before the movie opened, director James Cameron was talking about the weekend box office not being too important in the long run:

I don't think were going to know where we land for about three weeks. Everybody in our business is so programmed to have a final decision on Monday morning, but I think Monday won't mean anything. I think it will tell us what our opening was, but it won't tell us what we'll do the next weekend... Does (the response) translate to positive word-of-mouth for women? Do we fall less because of the 3D and emotionality? We don't yet. It's a big experiment right now.

Our bet? Next weekend won't see the usual massive drop-off, as a mix of the effects and the holidays will drive people to repeat viewings. In the long term, though...? It's not going to be another Titanic, but will it have similar word-of-mouth success?