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David Poland

By David Poland

The Avatar Number

Fox is saying $3.5 million for the midnights.
Already this is being taken out of perspective completely.
The December record – and keep in mind, this includes the top two grossing films of all time – is a $77.3 million opening.
A $100 million opening in December would be shocking. It would be better than a 30% increase on the former December record. More significant than Spider-Man taking the all-time opening from Potter’s $90.3 to $115m in 2002.
But I don’t think that’s going to happen.
$80m to $85 million is a realistic number. And that will still shatter records.
We’ve already discussed December.
The highest grossing opening of ALL TIME for an original screenplay movie is The Passion of The Christ‘s $83.8 million… and I’m not sure that really counts.
I Am Legend‘s $77.2m is not 100% an original, but I think it was original to the vast majority of people buying tickets that weekend. There weren’t millions clamoring for a rethink on Matheson.
After that, it’s 300, kinda, at $71 million.
For me, after IAL, the next legitimate comparison is Up, which had the Pixar brand as Avatar has the Cameron brand, opening to $68.1 million. Then, Bruce Almighty at $68 million.
As I keep saying, perspective is important here.
If I had to project – and I must… I must – a conservative estimate would be $75m this weekend, $45m M-Th, $45m next weekend, $40m M-Th, and $35 New Year’s weekend for a total of $230m by the end of the holiday with more to come. It could be $50 million higher.
The thing to keep in mind is that the film has under 4000 screens, which is about half the number of screens on which movies like this now tend to open… sometimes even more. It’s not that no seats will ever be empty – this is a myth created by people who live in cities and go to a handful of the busiest screens in the world – but that the opportunity for anytime viewing, showtimes every hour for the next 3 weeks, is not there for this film. More people will wait a bit longer.
My ultimate number, as it was a week ago, is between $400m and $500m domestic and $700m and $800m internationally, meaning between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion worldwide in theatrical. That number is not conservative. But I do think it’s pretty realistic.
Here are your…
The Dark Knight $158,411,483
Spider-Man 3 $151,116,516
The Twilight Saga: New Moon $142,839,137
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest $135,634,554
Shrek the Third $121,629,270
Spider-Man $114,844,116
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End $114,732,820
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $108,966,307
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith $108,435,841
Shrek 2 $108,037,878
Titanic $1,842.90
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King $1,119.10
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest $1,066.20
The Dark Knight $1,001.90
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone $974.70
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End $961.00
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix $938.20
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $929.40
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $925.30
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace $924.30
Notice that only 3 of the Top Ten openers are Top Ten grossers worldwide.
ADD, 2:39p – A reader pointed out that I hadn’t really addresses the $3 – $4 extra per ticket that people pay for 3D.
I had in my head, but that’s no real use to you.
Given at the increase in ticket price is about 25%, it is not insignificant. But as is always the reality, dollars don’t know how they are being spent. Does this mean that someone is going to argue that Avatar is not really the top opener in December of it does less than $95 million? I’m sure. There are people who like to find excuses to be contrarian.
My main point here is that the record is not terribly important. Second, the opening weekend of a December movie does not define the run in the way it does in the summer or other times of the year. Third, did people pay extra to see I Am Legend on IMAX screens… and are we really looking to diagnose every film this way? Fourth, do the budget estimates get a 25% cut to match the increased ticket pricing?
People love crunching numbers to create direct comparisons in situations in which it is simply silly. It almost always seems like an exercise in insulting people’s intelligence by assuming, for instance, that they don’t understand that Gone With The Wind is not in the same box office universe as Spider-Man and the numbers have completely different contexts. Of course, this exacerbated by journalists who deserve such insults to their intelligence and do not do their research.
If you are one who wants to count tickets, be my guest. I see it as a worthless pursuit. No one writes about the number of tickets sold to kids films vs adult films nor do the “tickets sold” people, who are guessing at the numbers based on MPAA estimates of avg ticket price and theatrical grosses. But an animated movie probably sells 20% – 30% more tickets to get to the same gross as an “adult” movie because of reduced ticket prices for kids. Does that make Up 20% or 30% more successful than The Hangover, because no doubt, it sold at least 20% more tickets?
I fine all the nit picking irritating and, again, a waste of time. It’s another excuse by media to own the spigot of “what’s doing good” and “what’s doing bad,” just as the NYT’s false $500m story did, tearing down Avatar, or the overhype of Twilight: New Moon. Pricing is a tool used to get to the largest amount of money possible. Not every film – and not every widget – works under the same pricing guidelines. it is the job of journalists to address the specific clearly and to keep the general in perspective. At least, that’s how I see it.

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75 Responses to “The Avatar Number”

  1. LYT says:

    Yeah, I think The Passion of the Christ should be considered an adapted screenplay, for sure.
    Had the main character NOT been named “Jesus,” a case could be made for it being original.

  2. jasonbruen says:

    Thanks, DP. Appreciate the analysis.

  3. mysteryperfecta says:

    Can you conclude anything about Avatar’s $3.5 million midnight showing? Perhaps about fanboy zeal (or lack thereof)? Is the opening good, bad, or indeterminate (or irrelevant)?

  4. Telemachos says:

    My 2 cents are that midnights are derived from fanbases. The only fanbase Avatar has are old-school Cameron fans — who’re older and I’m guessing a number of them simply can’t justify a midnight show with a workday the following morning (I certainly couldn’t).
    I Am Legend made $1.7m for its midnights, with a certain number of IMAX theaters (certainly not nearly the number Avatar is playing on), and with ticket prices lower than they are now. So my guess is that Avatar’s $3.5m is somewhere in the vicinity of the same number of admissions as Legend.
    The midnights do seem to point that Avatar is in the same opening weekend numbers as Legend, King Kong (adjusted), etc — so it’ll be a very solid and strong December opening, but not a crazy New Moon-esque shattering one.

  5. anghus says:

    I realize there’s less than 24 hours of box office statistics available, and that there’s no way to know the final b.o. With that said, i want to be the first to put it into print.
    someone call it.

  6. David Poland says:

    You got it Anghus… you’re on the record. Epic wrong.

  7. hcat says:

    Anghus – I went the other way earlier this afternoon. $630 million domestic when this slips into the ether in early May.

  8. LexG says:

    I know “perspective” is the DP mantra, and Avatar will be a WOM flick with legs…
    But New Moon did 26 at midnight; Dark Knight did what, 18?
    You CAN’T tell me there weren’t optimists thinking this would do 15-20 in midnights, especially with it supposedly being a “we’ve waited 12 years for this!” kinda flick.
    We’ll wait and see, but “selling the director” is always a risky way to market, since 98% of Americans have NO IDEA who directs ANYTHING or even what a director does; In the film blogger community, I’d say a lot of us are overly optimistic about how many people out there have REALLY been waiting “to see what James Cameron will do next.”

  9. David Poland says:

    It’s not about that, Lex. It’s about the movie.
    The problem they were having 2 weeks ago was, indeed, that not that many people cared about the next Cameron movie.
    But when they started showing it and word of mouth turned ecstatic, the tracking changed and changed fast.
    They are still a little worried about getting in teen girls, but the issue is being addressed in ads and promo. Once teen girls see that the female lead is one of them… well…
    This is the word of mouth movie of the year. Hangover is a close second. But it’s got that Dark Knight heat in word of mouth, but appeals to a wider audience.

  10. The Pope says:

    The audience I saw it with gave a cheer and a round of applause at the end. WOWS from the start, smiling faces and people raving on the way out. Cameron has delivered. And I loved it. Spectacular spectacle. Easily one of the films of the year. One of the decade? Ask me in a few years to see how the dust settles. However, I will wait a while before seeing it again (maybe because I’m getting old and I have a lot of other things to do).

  11. Cosimoto says:

    Terrible weather predicted for the east coast. How will that effect the numbers/perception?

  12. IOIOIOI says:

    If you look back in the archives. You will find a discussion that Poland and I had about the word of mouth of Iron Man. He pretty much slams me for stating what I found in terms of WOM with Iron Man. We see how that went, but Poland loves to post things like this; “But it’s got that Dark Knight heat in word of mouth, but appeals to a wider audience.” Which leave me wondering if he has learned a damn thing in the last few years.
    You are fucking delusional if you think Avatar has TDK appeal. It pretty much emphatically re-affirms that you are out of touch. Unless you are jossing with me, then that’s a funny post. If you are being honest, then someone needs to slap in you the face. Why? You are obviously fucking out of FUCKING IT at the moment.

  13. EthanG says:

    Weather is going to be a factor this weekend

  14. leahnz says:

    io, why do you hate ‘avatar’, a movie you apparently haven’t seen? i’m honestly curious. shouldn’t you wait until you’ve seen it to hate it?
    (and i’ll have to call ‘bs’ on the ‘dark knight is 4 quad/girls/grandparents loved TDK!’ tirade; maybe in your dreams)

  15. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    At the end of the day this niche quadrant pigeonholing is kind of redundant with titles like TDK and AVATAR. These are event movies. WOM and repeat biz is the only factor that transforms them from blockbuster to megabuster. This is how a two quad film can outdo a four quad pic.
    One thing I find a little peculiar with AVATAR’s marketing is that it should have been called PANDORA and that planet should have been the main selling point.
    To make the entire initial focus of taking audiences on a journey to a spectacular world like no one has ever seen before. It was there in the marketing but I honestly think ‘selling the world’ angle creates a more attractive true sense of old school wonder, than utilizing unknown cast shots and beasties.
    I wonder how PANDORA would have done?

  16. IOIOIOI says:

    Leah, sorry, but it was. TDK appealed to a lot of people. Why? You do not get that number without almost every group going to see the movie. I know you love to think the international number is more important than the domestic, but domestically TDK was QUAD 4 FILM. Seriously, move here, then talk shit about what’s a QUAD 4 film. Only in dreams. If we are so fucking lucky! Imagine a very sly smile there in case you think it’s too dicky.
    That aside leah; Cameron brought about Titanic. He needs to pay. It’s as simple as that.

  17. Telemachos says:

    “Cameron brought about Titanic. He needs to pay. It’s as simple as that.”


  18. jeffmcm says:

    Yeah, how dare he make one of the most beloved and successful films in history. IOI, it’s blatantly obvious that your Titanic-hatred is motivating you in all of this, but don’t you have warm geek memories of Aliens or Terminator to give your position some nuance? Or…aw, why am I even bothering trying to have a rational, adult discussion with IOI.

  19. kelzeek says:

    Long time reader, very rare commenter. I gotta say, Dave, that I think your love for this movie has blinded you a bit, just as The Dark Knight uber-lovers became convinced it was a Best Picture movie (me included, to be up front).
    Just got back from Avatar, and I thought it was a great cowboys and Indians movie with unreal special effects. Really, probably the most beautiful movie I’ve ever looked at. I agree with IOI that this movie doesn’t have the broad appeal of The Dark Knight — Dark Knight had comic book people, casual fans of all the previous Batman movies, “serious” cinema folks, folks curious about Heath Ledger.
    Avatar is a much geekier movie than The Dark Knight, even geekier than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s going to get the World of Warcraft people, the action movie people, the film buffs… but I remain skeptical that it will bring in the women, the older folks. Watching the movie, as amazing as I thought it was, I was struck at just how far you need to be willing to go to meet the movie on its own terms — the big blue guys and gals will be a tough sell with more traditional, cynical and older movie goers. That, and there’s no memorable characters or actors in Avatar… its appeal is entirely predicated on its visuals, or at least that’s the thing most people will take from it. The story telling is good, but there’s no Joker or Gollum, or even T1000, in this film.
    This is not a slam on Avatar. It’s in my top ten of 2009, no doubt, but I think it’s appeal is a bit less broad than you think it is, Dave. I could be wrong. Let’s see what happens at the Oscars and boxoffice…

  20. leahnz says:

    i love this ‘the women won’t like avatar’ sentiment repeated over and over by…men
    sorry but most men know somewhere between ‘jack’ and ‘shit’ what women (who contrary to popular male belief do not all think the same and like the same stuff) are going to dig en masse, and i’ll go as far as to say that ‘avatar’ is a chick in flick disguised as a boy’s own adventure

  21. IOIOIOI says:

    Leah, men do know women want. We sell it to you everyday, and you get all Daniel Plainview on it. So please, stop, because you might make Don Draper drop a witty comment full of snark on your head.
    Jeff, we apparently have different senses of humour, and you get all pissy about a rational conversation? One: this is a discussion. Two: Cameron is not one of my people. I prefer Alien to Aliens, I like T2 but find the entire Terminator Mythos fucking retarded, but I love the Abyss. That’s it. He’s not one of my favourite directors. So Avatar is just another film to me. Sorry.
    Again: Titanic fucked up pop-culture. I have stated my reasoning before, and will refrain from doing it again. Nevertheless, excuse me for getting all CHUCKY on this film being sold on that film. A film that might hold the record, but a film that more hate than love. YOU CAN TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

  22. Nicol D says:

    Well, a bit of perspective…
    Watchmen made 4.6 million in midnight shows.
    New Moon did 26.3
    Half Blood Prince did 22.2 The latest Potter has barely crested 300 million and I will say it is easily as 4 quadrant film as you are going to find.
    Who knows, maybe Avatar will break The Dark Knight’s gross. Possible. But Probable? Probably not.
    For the record, I spoke to a young man today who went to the midnight screening and while he said the FX were wonderful the script was for shit. He will not be going back.
    As for females seeing that the female lead is one of them…unless there is a female lead who does not look like a 7 foot reject from Elfquest that the ads are not showing. I think this is wishful thinking.
    I am a male and Jake Sully sure isn’t me. The creature designs are off putting.
    My guess is a King Kong type run. Not a bomb by any definition but nowhere near Potter or Dark Knight grosses. And remember…the final reference on Avatar will be how it plays on a 27 inch screen in 2D DVD in about 4-6 months. If it can’t hold that water, it will not float.
    I am not a huge Titanic fan, but I get why everyone saw it. It does have emotional resonance. But much of that is because it is a treu human adventure/tragedy. Hard to say the same about teh Na’vi.
    And films only get to those Dark Knight grosses upon repeat viewings. If it is the political lecture everyone seems to say it is…ain’t gonna happen.
    And Sherlock Holmes is everywhere with, Rachel McAdams who I will go out on a limb and say will have waaaaay more female appeal than NetaIamtoolazytoseehowhernameisspelled will.
    The game is afoot!

  23. jeffmcm says:

    Nicol, all of your shirts are impeccably tailored, aren’t they?

  24. Nicol D says:

    God…I wish. If only you knew, Jeff, if only you knew.

  25. IOIOIOI says:

    Better they be tailored…

  26. jeffmcm says:

    Never mind, Nicol.
    IOI: Huh? You seem to have left an abandoned thought up there (or maybe it’s a reference to a comic book or an episode of some Stargate series that I never saw).

  27. Joe Leydon says:

    IO: I think you’re wrong about Titanic being “a film that might hold the record, but a film that more hate than love.” Seriously. I am not exaggerating when I say that, even now, a year and a half after I posted it on YouTube, I’m still getting gushy comments from Leo fanatics for this 1997 interview. Really: If you don’t want to look at that interview itself, just hit the pause button. But read the comments…

  28. The Big Perm says:

    Yeah, come on…Titanic is hated by AICN type nerds. The general public still likes or maybe is ambivalent to it in the way of “yeah, it was okay, I didn’t love it.” I’m sure some regular dudes out there hate it, but nerd hate always burns brightest.

  29. leahnz says:

    io, you don’t know your ass from your elbow
    “For the record, I spoke to a young man today who went to the midnight screening and while he said the FX were wonderful the script was for shit. He will not be going back.”
    that’s a big fat lie and we all know it, NIC
    “As for females seeing that the female lead is one of them…unless there is a female lead who does not look like a 7 foot reject from Elfquest that the ads are not showing. I think this is wishful thinking.”
    blah, blah, blah. what a shocker!!! and ftr, for most of the film the navi don’t look tall at all because they are all the same height and the forest provides no scale, so we don’t think of them as tall at all, they are just ‘people’ to us. so suck on that, ye of little knowledge and tight sphincter

  30. Nicol D says:

    “..that’s a big fat lie and we all know it, NIC”.
    You are so right, Leah. So right. You know me more than I know myself.
    Purge me. I must be purged.
    I must have lied. I couldn’t possibly have known a person who saw Avatar last night and did not rave. It is impossible.
    Impossible. You are so wise.
    “they are just ‘people’ to us. ”
    “People”…jeezus Leahnz, where the hell do you live, in the Emerald Forest? Get to the real world much?
    “so suck on that, ye of little knowledge and tight sphincter”
    Tight sphincter…was that you who snuck into my room last night? Day man…ahaaaaaa…fighter of the Night Man…ahaaaaaa…champion of the sun…

  31. leahnz says:

    memos to NIC:
    humour. don’t attempt it
    yes, people. because of their very human expressions and emotions and our empathy for them, after awhile the navi don’t feel ‘alien’, they feel like our peeps while the HUMANS feel like the alien invaders
    but you haven’t seen the movie so remind me, why are you flapping your lips again?

  32. PastePotPete says:
    Iron Man does $5mil in midnight shows and gets a “Here come the excuses” and Avatar does $3.5mil and gets “this is being taken out of perspective completely.”
    I liked Avatar a lot, incidentally. But this pro-Fox, anti-Paramount bias by Poland is getting old.

  33. David Poland says:

    A little obsessive, no?
    I was wrong about the upside of Iron Man. Oh My GOD!!!!
    And as with all films in the position, I was preaching calm and perspective in that post.
    “There is nothing wrong with a $5 million Thursday night pre-open, starting at 8pm.
    In fact, it’s quite good.”
    Ohhhhh…. I am a Paramount bully… eeewwwww. How could I be so brutal as to say their opening was quite good?!?!?!
    Clearly I have been faking my support of their entire winter slate to try to suck you into a false sense of my fairness. Caught again by the geniuses!
    Same with my great support of those Fox classics Jennifer’s Body and Amelia this fall. Complete fake out! I LOVE Jennifer’s Body! Fox set me up with oral favors from the films’ stars and all the negativity has just been lame cover.
    And you know, I started writing about the numbers on Avatar that would be likely BEFORE the first numbers landed… in part because of idiotic, petty little comments like yours. I have put my ass WAY out on this one. And if I turn out to be wrong, I will hear about it for a long time. I haven’t tap danced around it. I haven’t hedged. I am right out front with how commercial I think the film is after having seen it. Why does this make you so angry? And why in God’s name would you think it had anything to do with what studio released the film? (And btw… Paramount marketing is heavy with former FOXers.)
    I really hate that propagandist crap. Hate it.

  34. Joe Leydon says:

    You know, I really hope I like Avatar, because I love Coke Zero. And I really will be upset to see that movie title on every freakin’ can of Coke Zero for the next several months if the movie bites.

  35. Gonzo Knight says:

    Poland, you know as well as I do that ‘Passion of the Christ’ cannot be taken as an original screenplay movie (even if it is).

  36. IOIOIOI says:

    Jeff, that’s a good catch sir. The reference comes from Hard To Kill. Stay tuned for more references in the future.
    Here’s some more thoughts that stray from the realm on any sort of sport’s fan generated anger. I really hate shit that’s sold to us as being revolutionary, when it’s effects are 4 years old. I hate Sam Worthington being shoved down our throats, even though I dig him as an actor. I hate how he’s supposed to be the MAN because of starring in a film that’s not even as spectacular as it is supposed to be.
    I also hate films set in the future featuring a lot of white people. They have done studies about what colour we will be in the future, and it sure as hell won’t be BLONDE! I have a problem with Dance with Wolves being retold on another world, but no one calling Cameron on it. I hate that critics and reviewers like Poland will get down on their knees for this film, but real genre changers get shit from there.
    So yeah, I want Avatar to fail, and it has about 20% percent to do with the movie. It mostly has to do with what’s around the movie. Even if it makes all this money reviewer boy up there believes. IM2 and The Dark Knight Returns aka Bats 3 will blow it out of the water. Which means it does not really matter, but I hate being sold a manufactured spectacle. It really pisses me off.

  37. The Big Perm says:

    And Iron Man 2 isn’t a manufactured spectacle?
    You have the dumbest reasons for hating a movie you haven’t seen.

  38. messiahcomplexio says:

    Just got back from the IMAX at Universal citywalk.
    Got to say.
    I’m leaning DP’S way on this one.
    Yes there is eye rolling dialogue and Cameron’s heavy hand makes sure you never have any doubt who your supposed to root for…
    but the story is a classic hero journey, well told and will translate in almost every culture.
    Combine that with the stunning visuals and
    I say it goes north of 500 million, 1 billion worldwide and plays in IMAX into the early spring.
    Since everyone is calling there shots, I thought I’d put in my two cents.
    Who am I again?

  39. Geoff says:

    Ok, I saw it, this afternoon – AMAZING, live up to the hype! Beautifully shot, exciting, immersive, and not nearly as hokey as I would have thought. Cameron yanks you into this world and does not let go – very nicely paced, true sense of danger throughout and true sense of beauty throughout.
    Sam Worthington was much better than I thought he would be – usually, voice-over narration can sink you, but he does it well. The performance capture was simply amazing, the actors made you buy it, too.
    Only real weakness I found was the score – James Horner is just too damn derivative of his own hits, at this point. Not only did I hear too many Titanic-like cues, but the guy was aping a lot of Glory, as well.
    Still a home run, four stars, one of the best of the year, no doubt. Just like with Precious, the political stuff has been WAY overstated – this story has been around for hundred’s of years and all of a sudden, it’s a left wing screed???? Give me a break – the Breitbart/Nolte crew has got to seriously lighten up, already. It’s ok to dwell for two hours of screentime on the stoning of Sonja-whatever her name is or focusing on a cat-of-nine-tails ripping apart Jesus, but having
    one intense scene about the destruction of a tree and thousands of people around it is overdoing it???? It’s a good scene and makes a good point, but it’s not liberal propaganda. We’ve seen Alderaan get blown up, we’ve seen Vulcan get blown up, we’ve seen the White House get blown up – were those political? Seriously, Breitbart and Nolte and the rest of them should just lighten the fuck up, already.
    But back to the movie – yes, the story is derivative, but I can assure that you have never seen it like this. It moves, stays true to its own logic, and just dazzles – every one should be learning from Cameron, at this point.
    I also think the film is much more chick-friendly than any one is giving it credit for – hell, I want to take my wife now, because she loves Yoga, reads lots of books about spirituality and nature, and might even get the story more than I did.
    Stephen Lang was fantastic and gave his character all of the necessary charisma, Zoe Saldana does a great job portraying some one somewhat alien and feral yet relatable, and it’s nice to see Michelle Rodriguez playing the role she was always meant to play…..the tough Cameron heavy with a heart of gold.
    The film should do well, but I’m expecting numbers just above Star Trek-domestic – $300 million is going to be tough with the Sherlock Holmes buzzsaw coming, next week.
    And with regards to the best conditions to see it, I just trusted my man Ebert – he said he saw it at the River East and that was all I needed. They added a few Real D screens and it only cost me $9.00 – the 3D was amazing and it’s a very comfortable theater. I would like to see it in Imax and will likely do so when visiting family in Vegas in a few weeks – my folks live right near the Red Rock casino and they have an IMAX Real D screen, bingo!

  40. IOIOIOI says:

    Perm, do you just miss the obvious, or is that your thing? IM2 is the sequel to one of the biggest films of 2008. Avatar is a brain fart Cameron has been having for 12 years, but the brain fart is apparently the greatest brain fart ever. That’s just bullshit. If you think that’s dumb, then that’s you. It’s not me.
    Oh I know who you are… a guy who really tells shitty jokes. Thanks for referring to me as the LORD. If I ever do become the messiah. I’ll just begrudgingly save you.

  41. Geoff says:

    IOIOIOIO, have you actually seen the film, yet? It’s quite the grabber…..

  42. David Poland says:

    Gonzo.. just being extra careful not to offer ammo to the loonies.
    “Hey… what about The Passion… avoided that to make you point! HA HA Me like boom boom.”

  43. Geoff says:

    Ok, Dave, what are hearing? Finke is close to saying the studio is expecting $30 plus for Friday, but that sounds far from certain….I know you are hearing some numbers, at this point.

  44. Geoff says:

    Ok, Dave, what are hearing? Finke is close to saying the studio is expecting $30 plus for Friday, but that sounds far from certain….I know you are hearing some numbers, at this point.

  45. Eric says:

    Funny how IOI can use Dark Knight’s gross as proof that it was beloved, then say that the one movie that made more money than it was one “that more hate than love.”

  46. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Quoting Leah:
    “sorry but most men know somewhere between ‘jack’ and ‘shit’ what women (who contrary to popular male belief do not all think the same and like the same stuff) are going to dig en masse, and i’ll go as far as to say that ‘avatar’ is a chick in flick disguised as a boy’s own adventure”
    Jut to point out that those are 2 entirely different arguments, so you can’t really have it both ways.
    Yes, women can like what are traditionally considered “boys movies” (see for examples). But then you argue that, screw that, it IS a chick flick after all – that it caters to traditional demographics.
    Neither of those two arguments are wrong – a fair proportion of the girls will love the action adventure nature, and there is a strong “love interest”-style story. But it’s not being sold as a love story, even if it’s there. LotR has a prominent love story strand, but if you asked 100 people their top 3 things they remember from the movie I’d be willing to bet you could count the people who mention it on one hand.
    The one thing that makes me grit my teeth about the whole marketing is that it’s been sold on “visuals” – and there’s no appropriate reference point established. Relying on word of mouth to convey the effectiveness of visual effects is an incredibly poor strategy – Matrix was sold on visuals because they could demonstrate bullet-time in all the promos. Saying “It looks fantastic, from the director of T2” doesn’t convey that they’re really pushing the envelope here. You don’t want them thinking of how they feel about T2 now, you want them thinking of how they felt about T2 when they first saw it.

  47. christian says:

    Substitute TITANIC for TDK and IO’s rant makes less sense…

  48. leahnz says:

    allow me to retort: (i just wanted to sneak in some jules)
    foamy, i wasn’t having it both ways in my comment, my point was this: men keep saying women aren’t going to go see ‘avatar’, which is absurd.
    in general women happily support a much wider range of genres than men; the action/adventure lovin’ chicks will accompany their men for that angle, some of their sisters will go for the ‘nature/spirituality’ aspect, and even more of the sisterhood will connect with the love story, because that is what ‘avatar’ is at heart. this is not having it both ways, this is merely stating that different kinds of women will like ‘avatar’ for different reasons (you seem to think people only go to films based on the marketing, but that’s not true)
    “LotR has a prominent love story strand, but if you asked 100 people their top 3 things they remember from the movie I’d be willing to bet you could count the people who mention it on one hand”
    no, foamy, that comparison is just not apt. have you seen ‘avatar’? lotr is most certainly not a romance/love story between aragorn and arwen at heart, whereas avatar is utterly and completely driven by the romance between jake and neytiri. there is no debating this, it is fact.
    (why would marketing make you grit your teeth? unless it’s skin off your nose for some reason)

  49. LexG says:

    Leah, is “Avatar” like your favorite movie of all time at this point?

  50. Lynch Van Sant says:

    It’s one thing to see a midnight show in summer when the weather is warm and school is out but now and at 2.5+ hours, that number is not bad.
    I went to see the first show of the day today and it was a lot of college guy geek fans and females made up between 10-20% only. The amazing visual experience (I agree that the story/dialogue is generic) is what will make this a phenomenon. But, there are stumbling blocks like the non-3D previews make it seem like a videogame which will turn off some and especially older viewers.

  51. IOIOIOI says:

    Christian, it’s not that hard. Come on. You cannot be that looney. Stop acting as if it were not a Q4 movie.
    Eric, that’s what you get from my statement? Go ask 10 people which film they like more, and I doubt Titanic fairs well. Seriously, that’s not that fucking difficult to grasp, but let us all live under the delusion that Titanic is the most beloved movie of all time.
    I would state that you should try harder, but you guys are sort of here, then I am over here. Woo!!

  52. IOIOIOI says:

    Lynch, the ladies and I went and saw New Moon in droves about a month ago. So that midnight number is ass. If it turns it around. It turns it around. Robert is still out there, and I simply have more faith in him and all of his screens at this point.

  53. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Oh, you were finished?!?!? 😉
    You may not have been trying to have it both ways, but for me that’s what it read like. As Stephen Colbert would say, “Apology accepted”. 😉
    I’m not sure if the “women happily support a much wider range of genres than men” is accurate, although I would certainly agree that the range of genres for all genders is wider than commonly portrayed.
    I should clarify my position regarding marketing – I jumped the fence from creative to business a while back, and it frustrates the hell out of me that many people on the creative side have an innate belief that content sells itself – especially with the rise of Word of Mouth and social media. Every statistical study I’ve seen indicates that this isn’t true – from being able to manipulate consumer’s preference by swapping which item is on the left and right, to having songs being ranked clear 1st and dead last by identical demographic groups, to the simple fact that the major media companies are GAINING market share despite the proliferation of content through low-barrier media channels.
    I’m from a creative background – I don’t believe in shovelling shit just to turn a buck. But content on its own is not sufficient to be a success, the decision to part with hard earned dollars is made before the content can be experienced. The content is an important part (REALLY important), but so is framing the expectations of the audience – and it’s how badly the strategy has been managed that makes me grit my teeth.
    I think it’s a great movie, I totally agree that the love story is front and center. BUT that’s not what the communication has been about, and even if wom spreads it’s going to take a while to pick up speed because that’s not what people have been told to listen for. However well Avatar will do (and I think it’ll do just fine), it could have been done BETTER by providing a better point of reference for the visuals, and by reinforcing the story angle so wom for non-geek audiences picks up faster.
    I will admit that the lotr comparison was a little weak, but the stories are about “relationships”, platonic and romantic (hell, it’s even in one of the titles), and yet that’s not even in the top 5 of what people talk about regarding the movies. I think the same is true here – the love story may have resonated strongly for you, but it’s not what people are talking about (and I’ve spent most of today listening to feedback from audiences).

  54. leahnz says:

    yes, lex, i love no other movies besides avatar, i shall go see avatar everyday of its run and worship at a little avatar alter in my house and i shall not watch any other movies besides avatar for as long as i shall live and adore only avatar. happy?

    “the love story may have resonated strongly for you, but it’s not what people are talking about (and I’ve spent most of today listening to feedback from audiences).”
    what ‘people’? whose feedback from what audiences are you listening to and in what capacity, on blogs? are you listening to as many women as men? of course the romance isn’t the only thing people are talking about, but it’s most certainly part of the conversation, FOR WOMEN. the movie’s been out here for several days and most of my friends have seen it now and are amazed by how much they liked it, i’ve read several reviews now by female critics who mention the love story prominently; so unless you have your ear to the ground in some universal capacity i don’t see how you can possibly make such a claim or assumption from your anecdotal experience, whatever that may be.
    “I’m not sure if the “women happily support a much wider range of genres than men” is accurate”
    i am. i’ve said this all before so i’ll try to be quick; in patriarchal culture there is a double-standard and male bias; from early on women are conditioned to identify with and root for male protagonists/leaders/deities as the universal, ‘the norm’, ‘for everyone’; but men are NOT likewise conditioned to do the same, to identify with/root for female protagonists/leaders/deities as ‘the norm’, ‘for everyone’, ‘the universal’. men’s stories – often with females in supporting roles – are traditionally ‘the universal/the norm’, women’s stories are ‘the other’.
    in this regard, women often go along to the cinema (with or without their men) to see male-centric movies with male protagonists (WHICH IS PRETTY MUCH MOST MOVIES) – often with females in supporting roles – in significant numbers, helping these movies to make bank, IN ADDITON to attending female-centric films with female protagonists. woman are conditioned to accept/root for the male protagonist, it’s not a big stretch for us.
    however, the reverse is not true; typically men DO NOT go along in large numbers to stories about women with female protagonists, what few of them there are, often romance/costume dramas/romcoms/musicals, etc because that’s what gets made; instead women tend to go to these films together/in groups (a generalization of course, some men do attend these movies but it’s hardly the norm)
    so whereas women will go to male-centric films (and a female protagonist does not necessarily make a movie female centric or a woman’s story) as a matter of course, contributing significantly to box office numbers for those films — and ironically helping to ensure the male-bias status quo is maintained by enabling male stores to make more money with both male AND female patronage — this does not cut both ways; female-centric films do not receive the same bums-on-seats support from men so female-centric films traditionally make less money – little wonder with essentially half the potential audience – and thus much of female-centric cinema continues to be perceived as ‘niche’ in contrast to the male ‘universal mainstream’. women go to all movies, both male- and female-centric, men do not.
    (gah, speaking of male-centric, that’s this blog to a friggin T, the perspective on everything here is just unbelievably blokey and even more bizarre is when men tell women what women are going to do/want/think when they don’t know shit, really. it’s hard yakka being a girl here, i’m going to sleep!)

  55. anghus says:

    dave, for the record i was being sarcastic. i thought the qualifying statement made that pretty obvious.
    i saw avatar last night. awesome visuals. terrible acting (Sigourney Weaver in particular was grating). an hour too long. yes, an hour. zero emotional connections, surges, or feelings generated.
    I have no regrets seeing it. the 3D was amzing, the visuals alone make me want to see it again, but it was a very pretty, extremely derrivative bore.
    as for the female audience, my wife fell asleep 40 minutes in, woke up in parts and groaned repeatedly at corny dialogue. afterwards she said that it was awful and thought the story was ridiculous and “ripped off fern gully” to the point where she wants me to watch it to see the similarities.

  56. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Since you asked – yes it is anecdotal (in the sense that there’s not sufficient data points to be statistically significant), but we’re talking over 30 brief Q&A sessions online that skewed female (yes, over 50%), US audiences mainly. It could still be wrong (participants were approached through geek-related forums, so they’re not exactly representative of “average” moviegoer either).
    I’ll be disgustingly pedantic in saying that what your longer post talked about wasn’t what your original quote said (the original quote indicates scope rather than distribution, but the longer post clarified your meaning). The rest is completely accurate though – women are horribly marginalized in the media, and the assumption that “mainstream” = male while “niche” = female is especially grating.
    Having said that, if you were directing some of the “men tell women what women are going to do/want/think when they don’t know shit” I will say in my defense I try to stick to generalities that are on statistically solid ground, rather than speaking to any one demographic. I’m not saying “women wont talk about the love story”, I’m saying “people tend not to talk about elements that haven’t been strongly reinforced” (which is on fairly solid theoretical ground). My own anecdotal evidence seems to support that with respect to Avatar, but as you pointed out (and I guiltily admitted to) it’s not the most rigorous of testing in this case.
    People are quite shit at explaining their own behaviour, let alone other peoples’. In the left/right experiment I mentioned, none of the subjects could identify that the left/right was the predictor of their own behaviour – all would try to point to some characteristic of the item (in one case it was coats, and subjects would mention the quality of the fabric or the stitching etc. even when the items were identical).
    So feel free to call out someone when they try to tell you how “you think” but be aware that, statistically speaking, your own model of how you think may not be accurate either. 😉
    (and what ARE you doing writing on a blog at 3am Sunday morning?)
    **If anyone missed it in the tl;dr wall ‘o text – Leah won the discussion.

  57. Martin S says:

    The midnight is low because it’s finals week across colleges coast-to-coast. As Chucky pointed out in another thread, the snowstorm is also going to skew the entire East Coast for Saturday. So I don’t think we’re going to see a true WOM until weekday numbers pop up.
    But if it unquestionably takes second to Holmes next weekend, then it is the movie. No matter how much more it may gross than Sherlock in the long run, a movie with this kind of rollout should not drop from the 1 spot for at least three weekends…and IO will be right..and Leah can continue her audition for Medea.

  58. jennab says:

    Dave, you keep saying Avatar appeals to everyone but teen girls, but I am telling you, I have been trying to get the ten to twelve 13-year-old boys in my sphere excited about this movie, and they’re not. They are WAY more excited about COD: MW2 and, on the movie front, Sherlock Holmes.
    WOM may absolutely change things if several kids start posting on Facebook that the movie is “sick.” The negative comments I’ve heard include: It’s animated, it looks lame, I don’t care about the blue people, etc. Of course, they know NOTHING about Cameron. I told them he directed T2 and that sort of got their attention, but not really.
    But he WAS dragged to Twilight ‘cuz the chicks went. Ha. Maybe if this movie catches fire with them…

  59. jennab says:

    Oops, meant New Moon…

  60. bmcintire says:

    I saw this yesterday at the Dome (would not recommend seeing it there – the 3D is a bit diminished and the Cinerama glasses HURT your nose terribly) with a large (20+) group of co-workers. Despite some of the positive reviews that have come out lately, we were loaded for bear on this one, fully prepared to laugh through it and rip it to shreds.
    By the end, all but one of our group was positively blown away by this thing. Yes, it is an old story, but it is movingly told and beautifully rendered. And Dave’s points on the multiple plot threads was accurate. There was SO MUCH going on – both in terms of the visuals/design and script beats – that I was completely unaware of the long running time.
    That said, the WOM may not be able to fully carry this thing. Even after gushing over it, I was not (yet) able to sway one of my best friends to re-consider seeing this. The ad campaign that has been out there has done much more damage than good. She just kept reiterating how “dumb and geeky” it looked.
    Fox has a hard road ahead of them.

  61. messiahcomplexio says:

    Oh I know who you are… a guy who really tells shitty jokes. Thanks for referring to me as the LORD. If I ever do become the messiah. I’ll just begrudgingly save you.
    Just came back and saw this…Lol
    So my post was about you IO?
    Thanks for letting me in on that. I had no idea.
    I thought I was making a prediction on BO.
    talk about being the star of your own movie…

  62. christian says:

    I thought AVATAR was visually breathtaking, a leap beyond anything seen, and while I did have the usual script problems, it’s awesome. All that time spent underwater trained Cameron’s vision to create a new wondrous world. And by the end, I accepted the film as…pure metaphor. Which it is.
    In other words IO…
    Get away from her you BITCH.

  63. IOIOIOI says:

    Christian, get to know Felucia, because I saw this world three years ago. The mountains were a great bit of business, and ILM/WETA better get up there together to get a fucking Oscar. Apparently that’s the only way ILM can win… by winning jointly with WETA.
    I did love that this movie used the word BITCH a lot. If you have to see it. Go see it for that alone, BITCHES!

  64. LYT says:

    Not counting Expanded Universe, you really don’t see any of Felucia’s wildlife.
    I know that in the tie-in games or whatever, there are plant-people that ride Rancors. But in the movie? A few seconds of colorful leaves and giant mushrooms is about it.

  65. LYT says:

    But yeah, there is a reason I put Revenge of the Sith atop my decade list and not Avatar. The one spawned the other, cinematically.

  66. leahnz says:

    to be exact it was 2:22 AM. playing air hockey til late

  67. leahnz says:

    for avatar, ILM won’t be winning so much as a ring from a box of cracker jacks, io

  68. IOIOIOI says:

    Leah, ILM created the world, and it’s a lot more impressive than the creatures. Seriously, you keep thinking your boys earned their Oscars. You keep thinking that, but the Lovely Bones was slammed for a reason. What reason above all else? THE FX. Thank you, try again later!
    Lyt, Felucia on Battefront 2 is very similar to parts of Pandora. So, I feel that design is there.

  69. says:

    Has anyone ever factored in that the AVATAR numbers are skewed because IMAX 3D tickets are double the cost of regular theater shows? Surely this premium price needs to be included in any analysis of weekend numbers.

  70. leahnz says:

    “Leah, ILM created the world, and it’s a lot more impressive than the creatures. Seriously, you keep thinking your boys earned their Oscars. You keep thinking that, but the Lovely Bones was slammed for a reason. What reason above all else? THE FX. Thank you, try again later!”
    lol, io, YOU ARE SO WRONG, you have no idea what you’re talking about, as usual
    ILM did not create the world, or anything else (go watch the 30mins with letteri, you might at least get a clue as to what ILM did; here’s a clue: it had nothing to do with final rendering of anything)

  71. leahnz says:

    ^^^ re: avatar

  72. leahnz says:

    (oh wait, ILM did do a bit of final rendering on the third act battle sequence, that slipped my mind)

  73. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Saw AVATAR today in IMAX. Why you’d see this film in any other format I have no idea.
    Having been a 3D enthusiast for a long time and seen every 3D format screened in 3D festivals around the world, I can say that this was one top notch presentation.
    The first third of the film is where you get your money’s worth. It delivers in terms of scope and visual wow. The film’s minor flaws are overlooked as you sit there wolfing down the eye candy in a visual drugged stupor. There is some impressive work being done in this film but there are also several smaller moments that I found myself smiling at.
    Then the drugs wear off and you’re stuck in some interminable sub Dances with Jurassic Kong rip for the next hour. Dull montages and endlessly repetitive scenes to showcase the work done by the CG artists. Not one second is spent understanding or developing the Navi culture. There’s a cursory nod to what they’re about “they are connected to nature” but you never get a sense of any sort of them as living sentient beings. We know there are multiple tribes but Cameron’s terrible script never bothers to make them as three dimensional as the visuals. Mel Gibson in five minutes of Apocalypto manages to show us a living breathing culture that doesn’t exist anymore. I’m not exaggerating when I say you could cut an hour out of this film and I swear 95% of the audience would not notice or miss it.
    The last third delivers to action fans and wakes up the rest of us who dozed off in the middle. The film delivers many set pieces but I never was engaged to any degree and just didn’t care who lived or died. Which is a real travesty, because for the first time you do get performances from CG creations and its wasted because Cameron waited 15yrs for the technology but failed to develop his script any further in the downtime. There are moments in the final third that the film resembles a steroid version of the rave sequence from Matrix. I kept expecting a glow stick to appear in front of me to wave at all the tree huggers.
    If Big Jim as he’s known to some, dropped his ego and hired some major writing talent, this film could have become an instant classic. As it is now, AVATAR has none of the elegance or pathos of Costner’s saccharine but highly effective predecessor.
    The audience was 85% male.
    $325m Tops

  74. leahnz says:

    i don’t agree with many things you say there but in particular this re: the second act:
    “I’m not exaggerating when I say you could cut an hour out of this film and I swear 95% of the audience would not notice or miss it.”
    JBD, that’s absurd (not to mention rather arrogant). the middle bit is pretty much jake and neytiri’s courtship, so, sorry but it’s not that “nothing happens, it’s just a cgi showcase”, but rather that you didn’t FEEL what was going on.
    the film most certainly would have missed jake and neytiri’s courtship, desperately in fact because the love story is the entire motivation for jake to change his thinking, abandon his species and join the navi, all of which happens in this middle act. that fact that you didn’t even MENTION the crucial romance (which is subtle and adult rather than the moon-eyed panting puppy love of jack and rose) as pertaining to this act of the film is odd to say the least, because whether it works for you or not the bond of love forged is key to the story.
    yes, the film slows down and becomes more of a lyrical passage of time sprinkled with a sense of disorientation as jake goes from one world/body to another, slowly losing his grip on one existence to embrace the other; also, much of the spirituality of the film exists in this middle act as well, so those are powerful reasons why the middle can’t be “cut out and no-one would notice”; without it the entire motivation for jake’s changing his loyalties wouldn’t exist.
    i will say the editing in this section is a bit patchy, but on second viewing the structure and rhythm was more apparent to me, conveying the confusing feeling of alternating worlds. i’m actually not at all surprised some people don’t like this part of the film because the pace drops right off in favour of the esoteric, but ‘slow’ doesn’t mean nothing of significance happens, to the contrary many quiet, significant things occur in the middle act inextricable to the themes of the movie.
    as for the navi culture not being depicted to the extent of the natives of apocolypto and sooo many other movies (talk about a TIRED CLICHE), we do get a taste of how the navi commune, sleep, hunt, fly, explore, revere nature, etc. cameron obviously deliberately focuses on the intense connection to nature and spiritually of the clan, who remain rather mysterious and mythical creatures right to the end, when we’re still hungry to know more about the fantastical, magical aliens who become our tribe as well as jake’s
    (‘camerons terrible script’ – because the story isn’t how YOU want it? i think the hyperbole about the script is way ott, as is the tendency for people to confuse ‘dialog’ with the entirely of a screenplay. the story is what it is, simple and rather traditional, well suited to the archetypes and tropes of the ‘going native’ narrative, the story isn’t nearly as dire as some people would like others to believe)

  75. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    We may get a taste of how the navi commune, sleep, hunt, fly, explore, revere nature but thats just a taste. The feast we are kept expecting to feed on, is the wonder of the world and like pretty tourism commercials that gets old and dull fast.
    It would be arrogant of me if I said I could personally make the film better by cutting an hour out myself but thats not what I said. There are important elements in that dull middle that the film requires but I’m saying they could have easily been integrated into a 2hr film.
    Okay the script isn’t “terrible”, it does service the simple story but its no elegant piece of writing. It’s all rather clunky, predictable and suffers from pointing out the bleeding obvious, with weak voice over and some very strange narrative constructions.
    It’s very frustrating because the film makes us believe in 9ft blue aliens and sets up one of the great love stories but then fails in terms of delivering an interesting story.
    You cite Apocalypto as full of tired native cliches. Are you for real? AVATAR writes the book in terms of being one giant cliche. There may have been an original thought in there 15yrs ago but now it just seems unoriginal and dated. There is not one small moment of Na’vi life that makes me believe in their society and that is a huge failing.
    Look I got my money’s worth and the film has much to admire but I left thinking what it could have been and after awhile I have forgotten the film completely.
    I have no wish to return to PANDORA for another look or for any sequels and that truly saddens me.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon