It’s Friday morning and the weekend box office predictions are out, with Avatar again expected to hold the top spot against newcomers Mel Gibson’s “Edge of Darkness” and the comedy flick “When in Rome”. The guessing game once again is — how much will Avatar drop off? Here’s what the experts are saying:

A few thoughts.

First of all, I’ve never been a weekly box office prophet — the only time I’ve really watched it super closely is when I had a film out (and I never had anything that was near number 1 except when I put out films in the Philippines in the early 90’s).  But I do like to crunch numbers and I’m struck that there’s not much serious number crunching going on with the analysis that comes out every Friday.  So here are some number crunching thoughts that make me feel like the boys above may have once again underestimated Avatar’s likely performance:

  • If you actually study the Avatar-vs-Titanic day by day numbers, keeping in mind that both were released on the Friday before Christmas so that other than a couple of fluctuations having to do with which day of the week Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Years, and New Year’s Eve fell on–other than that, you can pretty much line them up side by side and learn a few things.  One thing that immediately becomes apparent is that within 10 days of release, it was abundantly clear that Avatar was trending more like Titanic than any other film since Titanic — and that trend has continued right until today.  And in fact, the trending over the last 14 days has solidified — meaning Avatar has trended more like Titanic over the last 14 days than it did in the previous 28 days in release.
  • So — what did Titanic do on the equivalent weeikend (its 7th)?  Well, that’s where it gets interesting because this is the weekend when Titanic didn’t drop off at all and in fact gained slightly, from $25.2M to $25.9M.  Hmmm……so that means that this is a weekend where, if Avatar drops 20-25% as everyone is predicting, it will be the first time that Avatar has deviated strongly from the Titanic template.  On the other hand ….it would be take a crazy person to predict that Avatar would do what Titanic did, and actually increase — that would mean a $35m weekend for Avatar.   Even I can’t quite bring myself to go that far out on a limb.
  • But then again, there’s another factor working for Avatar this weekend  — no football.  This is the dead weekend before the Superbowl–what effect will that have, in comparison to the last three weekends when Avatar had to contend with NFL playoffs.
  • So — if Avatar can track with Titanic, it will do $34M; if it tracks with the experts, it will do $27M. I’m going to say ……… let’s call it  $30M for Avatar this weekend.  That’s my prediction.  I’ll be back Sunday morning to take my lumps or say “I told ya so”.

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