'Avatar' Dominates At Box Office

James Cameron's return to feature filmmaking earns second-highest-grossing December debut of all time.

The Box-Office Top Five

#1 [movie id="301495"]"Avatar"[/movie] ($77.3 million)

#2 [movie id="338075"]"The Princess and the Frog"[/movie] ($12.2 million)

#3 [movie id="420164"]"The Blind Side"[/movie] ($10 million)

#4 [movie id="413415"]"Did You Hear About the Morgans?"[/movie] ($7 million)

#5 [movie id="414921"]"The Twilight Saga: New Moon"[/movie] ($4.4 million)

The mysterious world of Pandora is as beautiful as it is dangerous, and it's that very combination that helped draw the masses to [movieperson id="9282"]James Cameron[/movieperson]'s "Avatar," the director's first feature film in over a decade.

It's hardly surprising that the fantasy epic debuted in first place this weekend, dominating the closest competitor by more than $60 million. The 3-D flick was originally estimated to have pulled in $73 million over the weekend, but on Monday (December 21), Variety reported that the tally had been revised to $77.3 million. That gives "Avatar" the highest-grossing December debut in history, surpassing Will Smith's "I Am Legend," which took in $77.2 in its opening weekend.

As "Avatar" has been receiving glowing praise from viewers and critics alike, it likely could have had an even bigger opening weeking. But the big blue film's debut was softened by a ferocious snowstorm that hit the eastern portion of the United States and likely caused many would-be moviegoers to stay inside rather than head out to theaters. Despite the weather woes, "Avatar" still managed a $232.2 million worldwide total, a result that Variety states is "the best global launch ever for a non-sequel."

The movie was hardly cheap to make, with a budget rumored to range between $300 and $500 million. With any luck, the film's strong buzz and the upcoming back-to-back holiday weekends will go a long way towards helping "Avatar" earn its budget back.

While attention is understandably on Cameron's return to feature filmmaking, "Avatar" wasn't the only newcomer in theaters this weekend. The other new wide release was "Did You Hear About the Morgans?," Sony's romantic comedy starring [movieperson id="48614"]Sarah Jessica Parker[/movieperson] and [movieperson id="24905"]Hugh Grant[/movieperson]. The film's meager fourth-place opening has been blamed on a variety of factors, including the tumultuous weather and lackluster reviews.

Of the weekend's limited releases, Rob Marshall's [movie id="343623"]"Nine"[/movie] performed the best, earning $247,000 from only four theaters. The musical, starring [movieperson id="15539"]Daniel Day-Lewis[/movieperson], also managed to put forth the best per-screen average of any film this weekend at $61,750 per theater.

Upcoming Releases:

"Avatar" faces some stiff competition next holiday weekend with the release of [movie id="341168"]"Sherlock Holmes,"[/movie] starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law and directed by Guy Ritchie; Meryl Streep's romantic comedy [movie id="390765"]"It's Complicated"[/movie]; and the family-friendly [movie id="391243"]"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel."[/movie]

Check out everything we've got on "Avatar."

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