'Avatar' grosses nearly $27 mil Friday

9:48 AM PST 12/19/2009 by Gregg Kilday, AP

First-day take falls short of record-holder 'I Am Legend'

James Cameron's "Avatar" launched with an estimated $26.7 million opening day Friday, including $3.5 million from its midnight screenings. Fox's mammoth, PG-13 3D movie is playing in 3,452 locations in North America, many of them charging premium ticket prices.

Its Friday number fell short of the $30.1 million that Will Smith's "I Am Legend" pulled in on its opening day on Dec. 14, 2007, which enabled that movie to set the record for a December opening weekend of $77.2 million. The final weekend number for "Avatar," though it should approach "Legend" territory, is difficult to predict given that much of the East Coast is contending with a blizzard.

"Avatar's" arrival dwarfed that of the weekend's other new wide release, Sony's "Green Acres"-flavored rom-com, "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. The PG-13 movie, directed by Marc Lawrence, took in $2.4 million as it opened in 2,718 locations for a fourth-place showing for the day.

Disney's animated "The Princess and the Frog," No. 1 at the boxoffice last weekend, shifted into second place as it collected $3.4 million, dropping a little more than 50% from last Friday, its first day in wide release, when it collected $7 million.

In third place, Warners' resilient drama "The Blind Side" picked up $3.2 million. Its cumulative gross passed the $150 million mark Monday.

In the fifth slot was Summit's "New Moon," which notched $1.4 million for the day as its domestic total crested the $270 million mark.
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