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'Avatar' ready for sixth boxoffice win

"Avatar"

Cameron's epic likely to bring in another $25 million

It's getting awfully close.

Fox's "Avatar" will take a bit longer to fly past the domestic and worldwide boxoffice records set by "Titanic," but the sci-fi phenom clearly is charting a similar course.

When "Avatar" again tops the weekend boxoffice -- yes, when, not if, despite three wide openers hitting theaters Friday -- James Cameron's latest blockbuster will mark a sixth consecutive No. 1 frame. His "Titanic" was the last pic to do so, in 1998.

In fact, the oceanliner-disaster film topped the domestic boxoffice a staggering 15 times during the course of its 10-month theatrical run in 1997-98. Nobody expects "Avatar" to last quite that long, as releases are much more front-loaded these days, but there seems no immediate end in sight for its chart-topping prowess.

"Avatar" looks likely to ring up $25 million this session. That would give the boxoffice magnet a domestic cume of about $550 million and a worldwide tally approaching $1.8 billion as it closes in on "Titanic" records of $600.8 million and $1.84 billion, respectively.

Among the new pics, two appear strong, with prospective bows in the mid-teen millions. Fox unspools the Dwayne Johnson-toplined family comedy "Tooth Fairy," and Screen Gems sends out the sci-fi actioner "Legion," starring Lucas Black ("Jarhead") and Paul Bettany ("Creation").

A maiden theatrical voyage by newbie distributor CBS Films -- the drama "Extraordinary Measures," starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser -- should gross in the middle single-digit millions through Sunday.

So what's the secret of "Avatar's" chart-topping success?

"There is a real simple reason why this picture is hanging in the way it is," Fox domestic distribution president Bruce Snyder said. "People love it."

Helmed by Michael Lembeck ("The Santa Clause 2"), "Tooth" co-stars Ashley Judd, Stephen Merchant ("Run Fatboy Run") and Julie Andrews. There hasn't been a family comedy released of late, which gives the PG-rated pic a good shot at grabbing the boxoffice silver medal this weekend.

"Legion" represents a first feature-directing credit for Scott Stewart, who co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Schink. Co-starring Dennis Quaid, "Legion" is tracking best among young males.

On an industrywide basis, Hollywood will look to get back into the win column this weekend after marking the first year-over-year down session in three frames so far this boxoffice year. The weekend will be compared with a relatively light $160.3 million session last year topped by the $20.8 million bow of Sony's "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans."

Through Sunday, 2010 is pacing 6% ahead of the same portion of last year, with $490.1 million in U.S. and Canadian coin.