"Ikran" from James Cameron's "Avatar"

As Avatar continues to set records and show “Titanic-like” legs, the water cooler discussion may soon be transitioning from ‘do you think Avatar can catch Titanic?’ to ‘What will Avatar’s final box office gross be?’  Making such a projection is very, very difficult because–while many patterns have been established in Avatar’s run, it’s a fact that Titanic defied all the trends in its amazing run. Still, it’s tempting to take a peek at what the final might be.

Anecdotally, it seems that Avatar may indeed be getting the kind of loyal, repeat viewing fans that fueled Titanic’s marathon run.  On Avatar Forums there are fans who have seen Cameron’s sci-fi epic as many as 8 or 9 times, and we’re only 24 days into the run. Polls on various movie sites suggest most viewers who saw Avatar once in theaters plan to see it at least one more time.  But still–Titanic has set the bar incredibly high when it comes to downstream theatrical performance.

In any event, one useful tool in thinking about Avatar’s final performance is to match Avatar’s performance to Titanic’s on a day by day basis, and then look at where Titanic stood in relation to its final US gross after each day in release.  In other words, after 10 days in release Titanic had cum box office of $88M which represented 16.72% of its final US Box Office Gross of $600M.  After 10 days Avatar had grossed $212M.  So if $212 were to end up being 16.72% of Avatar’s final gross — what would that final gross be?  No one (least of all yours truly) is saying Avatar will actually have the staying power of Titanic — but by running these numbers on a day by day basis, we can gain some insight into the upper limits of where Avatar might land, and also we can get a sense of how well it is or is not keeping pace with Titanic.

Here is the latest chart showing where Avatar would land if it could “keep up” with Titanic in the long run:

(click to enlarge)

Chart: What will Avatar's Final Gross Be?

In the far right column you can see that Avatar’s “what if” final gross has steadily declined, but the rate of decline in the last 10 days has been slowing–meaning the day to day performance of Avatar has begun to “synch up” with”Titanic”.  If Avatar begins to have dropoffs that are un-Titanic like, the number on the far right will decline more rapidly.  Remember that all Avatar has to achieve to beat Titanic is $600m and it’s currently projecting a final gross of $1.3B if it were to perform like Titanic from here on out. It won’t do that.  Or will it?  My take at this point is that $1B is not out of the question — it’s still in play.  Stay tuned.

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