'Avatar' ready for four-peat at boxoffice

"Avatar"

VIDEO: Cameron's epic to dominate three new wide releases

Groundhog Day comes early in boxoffice year 2010, which launches with a likely fourth consecutive weekend atop the domestic rankings for Fox's sci-fi phenom "Avatar" despite a diverse trio of wide openers.

James Cameron's motion capture/live-action epic is poised to become the first film to post four consecutive No. 1 weekend performances since "The Dark Knight" managed the feat in summer 2008. "Avatar" also is stalking "Dark Knight" and other all-time domestic top grossers, all while racking up an even more impressive global tally.

A 40% drop from its week-earlier total would mean a $40 million-plus weekend for "Avatar" this session. That would produce a domestic cume well more than $400 million, placing it smack in the midst of Hollywood's top 10 all-time grossers -- a list topped by Cameron's $600.8 million haul for "Titanic" in 1997-98. ("Avatar" soared past $1 billion in worldwide boxoffice Sunday.)

Fox also could wind up with the weekend's No. 2 pic as its family comedy "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" shows signs of sustained playability. Warner Bros.' period actioner "Sherlock Holmes" also will be watched for whether the Robert Downey Jr. starrer's nifty market hold last weekend can be sustained through a nonholiday session.

As for the weekend's wide openers, Lionsgate's futuristic vampire actioner "Daybreakers," starring Willem Dafoe and Ethan Hawke, should break into the mid- to high-teen millions through Sunday, and Dimension's Michael Cera-toplined comedy "Youth in Revolt" has good prospects of hitting double-digit millions.

But Universal's "Leap Year," starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode ("A Single Man"), is tracking softly and likely will open in the single-digit millions while skewing heavily female. Directed by Anand Tucker ("Shopgirl"), the romantic comedy was financed and produced by Spyglass and acquired by the studio.

Co-written and co-directed by German brothers Michael and Peter Spierig ("Undead"), "Daybreakers," set for 2,523 playdates, targets younger moviegoers and should skew a bit female.

"Historically, early January has been a great time to release genre film," Lionsgate executive vp distribution David Spitz said.

"Revolt" also will rely on younger support, but thematically the R-rated comedy won't overlap unduly with the Lionsgate pic.

Also today, Paramount expands its George Clooney vehicle "Up in the Air" to a total of about 2,200 engagements. Through Sunday, the cume for the awards-season favorite stood at $44.4 million after five frames of a platform campaign.

Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," from Sony Picture Classics, will expand after four frames of bicoastal exclusives to 550 U.S. locations. And Fox Searchlight broadens its Jeff Bridges starrer "Crazy Heart" by 21 theaters for a total of 33, with the music-filled drama toting a cume of $702,188 through three sessions.
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