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"Avatar" Continues To Soar Heading Into Another Big Weekend

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With no new releases opening, James Cameron's "Avatar" should be the top overall draw once again in what is likely to be a very busy holiday weekend.

Though overshadowed by the enormous success of "Avatar," "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" has done very well with its targeted demographic and is in great position to post another big weekend, as is the Robert Downey, Jr.-starring "Sherlock Holmes."

Without any new competition, "Avatar" could become the first release ever to earn $50 million on three different weekends as it continues to dominate the box office both domestically and in foreign markets. Heading into its third weekend, "Avatar" has already hauled in more than $250 million domestically and $700 million worldwide, making it a top five overall earner for 2009 releases already.

Though plenty of its revenue will come after the new year, "Avatar" is on track to topple "Transformers: Revenge Fallen" as the number one domestic release of 2009 and its auspicious foreign numbers suggest that it will easily surpass the $929 million worldwide total of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" as well.

For director James Cameron, "Avatar" seems to have cemented him as one of the most influential big-budget directors around. If "Avatar" pushes past $1 billion worldwide, a total that now seems like a certainty, Cameron will have directed two of the five total releases that have hit $1 billion.

What's even more impressive, the other three - "The Dark Knight," "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" - have all been highly anticipated sequels with built-in audiences.

Helped by the New Year's Day holiday, "Avatar" could post another $55 million or so, which would already make it the second most lucrative 2009 release in terms of domestic revenue after just three weekends.

Heading into its second weekend in theaters, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel" has already reached $100 million domestically after very impressive post-Christmas figures. It will certainly remain a top draw for families with younger children on New Year's Day, likely helping it to take in another impressive weekend total. Look for "The Squeakuel" to bring in somewhere around $35 million, which will give it a legitimate chance at topping $200 million in domestic revenue by the time its box office run is complete.

After an opening weekend of $62 million, "Sherlock Holmes" will also benefit from the lack of new releases, and it is in good position to have a second consecutive big weekend. For star Downey, Jr. it will also mark the third time in two years that one of his releases has crossed $100 million domestically, placing him on the short list of action/adventure box office draws; next summer, that reputation will only increase with the release of the highly anticipated "Iron Man 2," which is a lock to be among the top draws of 2010.

Aimed at a very different demographic, R-rated romantic comedy "It's Complicated" is set to be the biggest benefactor of New Year's. While Christmas audiences historically tend to be more family oriented, "It's Complicated" is in perfect position to appeal to adult audiences, specifically older adult ones. With stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, "It's Complicated" boasts a top-notch cast and a weekend intake of more than $20 million seems very possible after its $22 million opening total.

"Up in the Air" will also benefit from more date audiences this weekend and it could definitely surpass $10 million for the second consecutive weekend. Musical "Nine" is not in the same position for success, however, after posting a mediocre opening in a historically lucrative holiday weekend a week ago. Despite record audiences last weekend, "Nine" managed a per theater average of just $3,862, suggesting that it has largely failed in its marketing efforts to reach its targeted adult demographic. With more competition from "It's Complicated" and "Up in the Air," "Nine" will remain in the lower portion of the top ten and could see a substantial decline in screenings by next weekend.

RTT Box Office Predictions For 12/31 - 1/2 in millions:

1) Avatar (Fox): $55

2) Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel (Fox): $40

3) Sherlock Holmes (Warner Brothers): $39

4) It's Complicated (Universal): $20

5) Up in the Air (Paramount): $10.5

6) The Blind Side (Warner Brothers): $8.5

7) The Princess and the Frog (Buena Vista): $5.5

8) Nine (Weinstein): $4.5

9) Did You Hear About the Morgans? (Sony/Columbia): $4

10) Invictus (Warner Brothers): $3.5

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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