'Avatar' closer to toppling 'Titanic'

Film tops domestic rankings for six straight weekends

Monday is the day "Avatar" flies past "Titanic" in its historic global journey.
James Cameron's latest big-screen epic exits the weekend with an estimated $1.841 billion in worldwide boxoffice, just a shade behind the record $1.843 billion rung up by the filmmaker's "Titanic" in 1997-98. So there is little doubt that Monday's domestic and overseas boxoffice will combine to write the worldwide tally for "Avatar" into industry annals.
"Audiences still are going in record numbers around the world to experience this remarkable film," Fox senior vp domestic distribution Chris Aronson said.
As for its theatrical performance in the latest session, "Avatar" became the first film since "Titanic" to top domestic rankings for six straight weekends, ringing up $36 million to push cumulative boxoffice to $552.8 million. "Titanic" took in a total $600.8 million domestically.
Internationally, "Avatar" cume reached $1.29 billion in the latest frame, surpassing the $1.24 billion foreign tally for "Titanic."
Elsewhere this weekend, Sony Screen Gems' sci-fi actioner "Legion" grabbed the silver-medal position with $18.2 million in opening coin, while the family comedy "Tooth Fairy," produced by Walden Media and distributed by Fox, bowed in fourth with $14.5 million. Fledgling distributor CBS Films debuted its first title, the drama "Extraordinary Measures," with $7 million in seventh place.
Denzel Washington starrer "The Book of Eli" from Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment dropped 56% from its week-earlier opening tally to register $17 million in third place, with a $62 million cume. Paramount's literary adaptation "The Lovely Bones" fell 56% in its second frame of wide release to $8.8 million in fifth, toting a $31.6 million cume including a month of exclusive engagements.
Lionsgate's "The Spy Next Door" slid 63% in its sophomore session to $4.8 million in 10th place with an $18.7 million cume.
Collectively, the weekend's top 10 finishers grossed $126.1 million, or 6% more than top pics in the comparable frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI. Thus far, the young boxoffice year has marked three up sessions and one down.
In a limited bow, Samuel Goldwyn/IDP unspooled the drama "To Save a Life" in 441 theaters and grossed $1.5 million, or an acceptable $3,400 per venue. An inspirational yard, "Life" was marketed largely through Christian church groups.
Elsewhere in the specialty market, Fox Searchlight's platform campaign for music-filled drama "Crazy Heart" continues to hit all the right notes, with the Jeff Bridges starrer adding 46 playdates for a total 93 to fetch $1.4 million, or a pleasing $15,323 per engagement. Cume reached $3.9 million ahead of a further expansion set for Friday, when the film will add another 40 theaters.
Sony Pictures Classics' German-language drama "The White Ribbon" added seven locations for a total 19 and grossed $123,163, or a solid $6,482 per site, bringing the cume to $455,014.
With "Avatar" set to soar past "Titanic" worldwide, it's worth noting the sci-fi epic's extra-dimensional weapon: 3D ticket upcharges.
The pic's 3D venues have contributed 80% of its domestic boxoffice to date and internationally 65%. Imax 3D venues alone have contributed $134 million in global "Avatar" boxoffice.

Directed by visual effects vet Scott Stewart in his feature-helming debut, R-rated "Legion" attracted audiences skewing 58% male, with 54% of patrons aged 25 or older.
"It was certainly what we hoped for, and I think it was a very good result," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.
Directed by Michael Lembeck ("The Clique"), PG-rated "Tooth Fairy" attracted audiences comprised 60% of females, with 75% of pic support coming from family moviegoers.
"I'm very happy with the opening," Fox's Aronson said.
Helmed by Tom Vaughan ("What Happens in Vegas"), "Measures" support skewed 59% male, with 80% of patrons aged 35 and older. The film underperformed projections for urban locations and over-achieved in smaller markets.
"The opening was below our expectations," CBS Films exec vp distribution Steven Friedlander said. "But word of mouth should be strong, and it should play well for awhile. Small towns are where it's playing strongly, and those are the places where pictures usually play for a longer period of time."
Looking ahead, two films open wide Friday; Warner Bros.' Mel Gibson-toplined thriller "Edge of Darkness" and Disney's romantic comedy "When in Rome," starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel.