Box-office bean counters haven't had much time to sleep in the six weeks since the release of James Cameron's epic "Avatar." The potent combination of effusive word of mouth and critical praise helped the film glide right past "The Dark Knight" this past weekend to capture the #2 spot — behind Cameron's "Titanic" — on the list of all-time top-grossing domestic releases.
So who's driving these intergalactic numbers? While casual moviegoers certainly play a huge role, "Avatar" junkies make "Titanic" devotees look like a regional fan club. And these are by no means closet cases: Coaxing Pandoraholics to dish about the movie's merits requires as much prodding as asking Lady Gaga fans why they love her.
So how do you know when you're officially a Pandoraholic? Judging from conversations with MTV News and fan comments on Ain't It Cool News and the Vancouver Sun, losing count of how many times you've seen the film is probably a good start. "I've been to the theater nine times to watch 'Avatar' and a few of those trips were for multiple showings," a fan named Burt unapologetically gushed. "All told, I think I'm on number 16 or 17, but I lost count after 12! I can't say I love this movie, because that's just too weak of a description. Worship comes closer, but that's still a long way off!"
'Fessing up to multiple screenings of the sci-fi epic is no point of embarrassment for Pandoraholics, who look upon their "Avatar" ticket stubs as badges of honor. "I've seen the movie seven times, and won't be stopping there," professed Zoey, whose conspiracy theories about the Vatican's secret plan to subvert the juggernaut are alive and well. "It is a spiritual experience for me in ways I won't go into here."
And for the junkies who see no end to future screenings in sight, do they consider their time and money well spent? "It was like going on Space Mountain five times — it was an amazing feeling!" Some even said they have a goal in mind — a certain double-digit number they want to hit, presumably before "Avatar II: The Blue is Back" comes out.
Like music enthusiasts who follow their favorite bands to every far-flung show in order to understand every facet of the music, several Pandoraholics said they feel compelled to see the film in every form available. So whether it's 2-D, real 3-D, IMAX 3-D or varying the type of glasses (Dolby, linear polarized) worn, super-fans seem to be in agreement that one can't really see "Avatar" until one sees all of "Avatar."
Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, attributes the unprecedented box office numbers in part to the movie's 3-D advantage, but he also dubs "the fanatic factor" to be the real driving force behind the film's money-making momentum. "The fact that the realm 'Avatar' creates is a world that begets further exploration is why fanatics flock to these kinds of films over and over. Simply put: they can't get enough of the blue stuff."
With reports that some fans experience withdrawal symptoms from living in their [spiritual] motherland, Pandora, Bock credits James Cameron "for creating a true blue blockbuster using Hollywood's most successful mythic paradigm: the fantasy film."
As Pandoraholics continue to send their message to Hollywood loud and clear, there's little question that the film has fast joined flicks like the "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" series in spawning its own cult of rabid fans.
Check out everything we've got on "Avatar."
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