Blue aliens help Hollywood to its best weekend at the box office

In addition to mistletoe and wine, the average American Christmas seems to have consisted of popcorn, 3D spectacles and a tribe of tree-hugging blue aliens, as the continued success of the sci-fi film Avatar helped Hollywood achieve its most lucrative weekend since records began.

The James Cameron movie stayed on top of the box-office charts for a second consecutive week, selling $75m (£47m) worth of tickets, as cinemas in the US and Canada reported total estimated box-office receipts in excess of $278m for the three days from Friday to Sunday.

That figure easily beat the previous weekend record of $260.5m, recorded in July last year when the Batman film The Dark Knight debuted. Even accounting for inflation, it represents the biggest 72-hour take in modern history, according to Hollywood.com, an industry website which carries data going back to 1985.

Cinema-going is part of the Christmas Day ritual for many American families, and film studios often use the holiday to flood the market with eagerly anticipated new titles. This year was exceptional, however, in that the date saw three very different films achieve what amounts to instant blockbuster status. Avatar, in its second week of release, was closely followed by Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, which defied mixed reviews to post a healthy $65.4m. In third was children's animation Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel, which made $50.2m.

Box-office analysts said the extraordinary figures were boosted by a mixture of good luck – Christmas fell on a Friday, meaning that the holiday exactly spanned the 72-hour reporting period – and the fact that Avatar was made in 3D, which encouraged viewers to shell out as much as 50 per cent more to see the title in special theatres.

The figures also reflect a long-term trend. Hollywood has defied the troubled economy this year to post record overall ticket sales. With three days left in 2009, receipts have now passed $10bn for the first time, giving credence to a theory stretching back to the Great Depression: that cash-strapped Americans view the cinema as a cheap night out.

Although film-makers are struggling to secure finance for quirkier projects, movies that boast mass-market appeal have shown remarkable staying power. The Sandra Bullock film The Blind Side, about American football, is still sixth in the charts, a month and a half after it was released, and has made a total of $185m.

The global success of Avatar has turned it into the clear front-runner for the 2010 Oscars. The film took Cameron a decade to make, and its state-of-the-art special effects, plus the wage bill for the estimated 1,200 people who worked on it, contributed to 20th Century Fox's enormous production costs – between $350m and $500m, depending on whose estimates you believe. That gamble now appears to have paid off.

Most projections suggest that it will become only the fourth title in history to top $1bn. However, it is unlikely to threaten the status of the highest-earning film ever: Titanic, Cameron's 1997 hit, swept the board at the Oscars and netted more than $1.8bn.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?