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Well, the weekend that many movie fans have waited weeks, months, even years for has finally arrived: the rollout of James Cameron’s latest masterpiece/big gamble, Avatar. It’s considered a possible masterpiece for its groundbreaking 3-D, but it is also a gamble because of a price tag that is definitely through the roof — some estimates have put it as high as $500 million. So this flick needs to make a ton of money over the next several weeks and maybe even months just to turn a profit.

I will have more to say about Avatar later. First, though, is a look at the other wide release going out into wide release this week: Did You Hear About the Morgans?

Did You Hear About the Morgans? stars Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker in a romantic comedy about a successful couple from New York in a crumbling marriage, who witness a murder, become targets of a contract killer, and end up hiding out in Wyoming where they truly are out of their element.

This movie is obviously going after a completely different audience from the fanboys and geeks who are going to rush to see Avatar. The audience for this one will likely be predominantly female with a few boyfriends dragged along kicking and screaming, so I think it will serve as counter-programming of sorts. The theater count is not big, just over 2,700, so I think a haul in the $11 million range is the likely finish for this flick.

Watch the trailer for Did You Hear About the Morgans?:

Now we come to Avatar, which is rolling out in just under 3,500 venues, many of those in 3D with its jacked-up ticket prices. Avatar is the first major James Cameron effort since Titanic, which set the all-time box office record with a domestic haul of $600 million. It went on to win the Oscar Best Picture and Cameron won Best Director, and he went up there to accept his award and declared “I’m the king of the world!” A lot of people never forgot about that and think the guy kind of lacked humility, but there’s no question the guy knows what he is doing as a filmmaker. The hero of the movie, played by Sam Worthington, is a paraplegic Marine who heads on a mission to the planet Pandora, where his mission is to infiltrate the Na’vi who populate the planet in the name of corporate interests by taking the form of an Avatar, a remote-controlled form that can survive the toxic air of the planet. He eventually falls in love and adopts the Na’vi way of life, eventually lead him to take on the final battle to save the planet from the forces of greed. Also in the cast are Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and Michelle Rodriguez.

Much has been said and written about this movie, with a few split opinions. There have been the usual spate of articles from people who haven’t seen the movie who are ready to roast James Cameron and claim that he’s finally lost his mind, and that he’s made the Heaven’s Gate of our generation that will sink the Twentieth Century Fox studio. Others who have actually seen the movie think the flick is groundbreaking and brilliant, with Roger Ebert saying Cameron, the “king of the world,” has got himself “re-elected.” We’ll see.

Watch the Avatar trailer:

My personal feeling is that this flick will not fly out of the gate like gangbusters the way The Dark Knight or The Twilight Saga: New Moon, or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen did. The theater count is too low for that to happen. What I see is a similar story to what happened with Titanic: a strong showing over a number of weekends. That is what will make this movie its money.

As for the box office this weekend, I think there’s enough buzz and excitement out there for Avatar to pull in $90 million.

So here is what I see happening this weekend at the box office:

  1. Avatar $90 million
  2. The Princess and the Frog $14 million
  3. The Blind Side $12 million
  4. Did You Hear About the Morgans? $11 Million
  5. Invictus $6.5 million
  6. Disney’s A Christmas Carol $5.8 million
  7. Twilight Saga: New Moon $4.5 million
  8. Brothers $3 million
  9. 2012 $2.3 million
  10. Old Dogs $2.2 million

That is it for now. See you at weekend’s end when we see if Cameron’s big-budget 3-D gamble pays off at the Reject Report!


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