Sheer variety of new releases draws moviegoers out in droves
NEW YORK - It was a merry Christmas in Hollywood as a diverse array of high-profile releases brought in an estimated $278 million in box-office revenues over the holiday weekend.
James Cameron’s “Avatar’’ pushed strongly into its second week while “Sherlock Holmes,’’ “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,’’ and “It’s Complicated’’ all opened. “Avatar,’’ the 3-D epic, topped them all, earning $75 million for 20th Century Fox, according to studio estimates yesterday. In its 10 days of release, “Avatar’’ has made $212 million domestically - and could be on its way to a worldwide gross of over $1 billion.
“This thing is going to be playing and playing, I can tell you that,’’ said Bert Livingston, 20th Century Fox distribution executive. “There’s a lot of business out there. Everybody’s got good movies out.’’
In second was “Sherlock Holmes,’’ Guy Ritchie’s reboot of the franchise with Robert Downey Jr. starring as Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective. The Warner Bros. film opened with a weekend total of $65.4 million, including a record Christmas Day debut of $24.9 million. It was a start that seemed sure to pave the way for sequels. Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., called the result “sensational.’’
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel’’ took in $50.2 million on the weekend and $77.1 million in its five days of release. The strong start suggested that “Squeakquel’’ was likely to surpass its 2007 original, which made $217 million.
Also opening was Nancy Meyer’s “It’s Complicated,’’ the romantic comedy from starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. With an audience 72 percent female, the Universal film took in $22.1 million, a solid debut.
The boffo Christmas weekend results spelled good things for all the films in release in the coming week - one of the most lucrative of the year.
“We all know what next week means to the industry. This is a huge,’’ said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. “Christmas is past us. No more shopping, no more returning. College kids are home. . . . I’m so optimistic about what the next weekend holds for us.’’
Two films with Oscar aspirations also released wide over the weekend: Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air’’ and Rob Marshall’s “Nine.’’ “Up in the Air’’ grossed $11.8 million, bringing its cumulative total to $24.5 million - already nearly earning back its production budget.
“For us, this movie was always the movie that we felt was going to be a real focus during the awards season,’’ said Rob Moore, Paramount vice chairman about “Up in the Air.’’ “It feels like this should have a long run as awards season continues.’’
“Nine,’’ the adaptation of the Broadway musical (which itself was a riff of Federico Fellini’s classic film “8 1/2’’) earned $5.5 million in 1,408 theaters.
“It’s an absolutely fitting end to the biggest box office year of all time,’’ said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “It’s just been a total roller coaster ride. It’s like audience members are on board.’’
Christmas weekend was also neatly organized around various demographics. There was science-fiction, romantic comedy, family fare, action-packed thriller, and serious awards-contender.
“That’s what fueled this Christmas, the diversity of the films,’’ said Dergarabedian. “It was like a cinematic buffet line. If you can’t find a movie that you like in the marketplace right now, you don’t like movies.’’