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“Avatar” Predicted to Break December Box Office Records

NEW YORK: This weekend is the opening one for “Avatar,” the 3D motion-capture extravaganza from James Cameron. Rich Greenfield of Pali Capital is pegging it for a record breaker.

“Normally we do not even try to forecast individual movies, however, we thought it would be useful to understand how 3D is impacting opening weekend box office results due to pricing premiums and screen count mix,” Greenfield said. “The mix of 2D, 3D and Imax 3D pricing should result in ‘Avatar’ becoming the biggest December movie opening in history.”

The top non-holiday December opener so far is “I am Legend,” a 2007 film that grossed $77 million its first weekend.

“The film was a 2D only release, which implies total attendance was around 11 million, assuming average ticket price was around $7.”

“New Moon,” the second installment in the “Twilight” series, did $179 million last month in 2D during its first weekend, meaning about 20 million people saw it. “... included here simply to give a sense of how many people can attend a movie over three days,” Greenfield said.

“We are assuming ‘Avatar’ will reach opening weekend attendance levels of about 12 million, with 57.5 percent of attendance occurring on 3D screens yielding total opening weekend box office of over $100 million,” he said.

By comparison, “Monsters vs. Aliens” and Disney’s “UP” generated around 45 percent of opening weekend box office from about 2,000 3D screens. “Avatar” opened is opening on 3,400 3D screens domestically, including 178 IMAXes.

“We are assuming only a modest attendance increment to ‘I am Legend’ as ‘Avatar’ is an entire hour longer--2:40 vs. 1:40--limiting the number of runs per day,” Greenfield said. “While ‘New Moon’ was also quite long at 2:10 in run-time, the film had a cult-like following and was a sequel, whereas ‘Avatar’ is a completely original concept.

“We are assuming 85 percent sell-out or more on the 178 IMAX screens--with a $13 average ticket price, which is a $3 premium to traditional 3D theaters and a $6 premium to 2D theaters. [This] equates to a blended opening weekend ticket price of almost $9, with nearly 70 percent of box office in 3D.”

More on 3D and “Avatar”:
December 18, 2009:McAdams On: “Avatar”
One of the most notable things about James Cameron’s use of 3D technology in his new epic movie “Avatar” is his restraint.

November 11, 2009:3D Remains a Gimmick, Analyst Says
While we did not intend to be the ‘3D Scrooge,’ we are increasingly skeptical that 3D will fundamentally alter the exhibition industry.”

October 26, 2009: “Soccer Match Broadcast in 3D”
Televisa broadcast the first soccer match in 3D over the weekend.

October 21, 2009: “SMPTE Fall Conference Focuses on 3D”
Dolby Labs, Fox Network, DTS, and RealD will be on hand with 3D input.

October 8, 2009: TVB Tech Alert: 3M Develops 3D for Mobile TV
The auto-stereoscopic 3D film targets cell phones, small video game consoles, and other portable digital devices and requires no glasses.

October 1, 2009: TVB Tech Alert: Sony’s Single Lens 3D Technology
The technology comprises a new optical system that captures left and right images simultaneously, with existing high frame-rate recording technology to realize 240 fps 3D filming.

September 24, 2009: “Consumers Care About 3D at Home”
About 25 percent of those who are at least somewhat interested in having the ability to view 3D content at home, however, were unwilling to spend more money on a 3D TV.

September 11, 2009: “BBC Considers Carrying 2012 Olympics in 3D”
“We could, and I believe should, capture some of the games in 3D.”

September 10, 2009: “NEP Unveils 3D Super Shooter”
Mobile TV production specialist NEP is rolling out its first 3D truck.

September 2, 2009: “Sony Announces 3D Home Initiative
Sony announced this week that it plans to introduce a consumer-ready 3D TV set next year, as well as build 3D capability into many of its consumer electronics, encompassing music, movies and video games.

July 30, 2009: “3DTV Launch Set for 2010”
BSkyB now plans to launch its 3D channel next year.

July 22, 2009
: “Industry Forging Ahead with 3D Amid Questions”
“Some members fear de facto, non-open standards, for first-generation broadcast 3DTV will result from the technology decisions made by first providers.”

April 6, 2009: “Live 3DTV Debuts in United Kingdom”
BSkyB successfully transmitted live 3DTV across it’s systems in the United Kingdom.

March 9, 2009
: “More 3DTV Developments
BSkyB continues plowing toward 3DTV, with a goal to offer it by the end of the year .