'Avatar' projections: $250 mil, coup for 3D

Regal CEO downplays idea that the film is a game-changer

NEW YORK -- "Avatar" could make more than $250 million in the U.S. and Canada, and draw new audiences to 3D films, Regal Entertainment Group's chief executive said Tuesday.

Amy Miles, who runs the world's largest theater operator, said "Avatar" appeals to older viewers who have not seen 3D films because many recent 3D releases have been animated movies appealing to children, such as "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Up."

"I think what that would do is introduce a section of the audience that has not seen 3D," Miles said.

"Avatar" is from director James Cameron, whose 1997 blockbuster film "Titanic" was the highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide, with $1.7 billion.

Using new 3D technology, "Avatar" tells the story of a U.S. Marine who visits an extraterrestrial globe with exotic inhabitants.

The film's release, by Twentieth Century Fox on Dec. 18, comes as Regal is making a big push into digital technology, converting 1,500 of its more than 6,700 screens to 3D technology.

But while Miles said the movie is likely to be a hit, and draw in new audiences, she played down the potential importance of "Avatar" to the broader push for 3D in theaters.

"I'm a little less of the opinion that 'Avatar' is a game-changer," Miles said. "I think from a film technology perspective, there's a lot of enhancements that are going to benefit the industry, but 3D is going to be successful whether 'Avatar' is successful or not," Miles said.