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Source: E!

By: Joal Rayan

Hollywood’s most expensive movie ever launched with an estimated $73 million Friday-Sunday that fell short of 2009’s opening-weekend record, but, with awards season, word of mouth and less snow presumably primed to fuel weeks of ticket sales, set the James Cameron space epic on a course to potentially become one of Hollywood’s top money-makers of all time.

Elsewhere, if the question was Did You Hear About the Morgans?, the box-office answer was no. 

Running through the standings:

Avatar‘s opening-weekend audience was mostly male (57 percent), over age 25 (62 percent), parked in a 3D theater (59 percent)—and pleased. Fox said moviegoers graded Cameron’s first dramatic film since Titanic an A. 

Worldwide, Avatar grossed $232.2 million, the studio said, a record for a non-sequel, non-franchise film opening amid an East Coast blizzard.

Avatar‘s ultimate success is TBD. Said Fox exec Chris Aronson: “We have always felt this movie is a marathon, not a sprint.”

If the budget-buster keeps making money mid-week, if it stands down Sherlock Holmes next weekend, Avatar may be on its way to $300 million, Exhibitor Relations’ Jeff Bock said, a domestic take that would put it, more or less, among Hollywood’s top 30 films of all-time. 

Here’s why it would be bad for Avatar to play out like New Moon: New Moon made more than half of its money in its first, crazy, record-setting 72 hours. If Avatar does that now—if it flames out fast—it’s sunk like Titanic, the maritime disaster. (Fast and furious was fine by New Moon, which cost a fraction of the who-knows-how-big-its-budget-was Avatar.)

Among this year’s openers, Avatar‘s weekend ranks as the sixth-biggest, behind Star Trek, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and, at No. 1, New Moon, which broke the bank with nearly $143 million. 

Sure, the snowstorm hurt Avatar—the movie’s ticket sales on Saturday were down as much as 86 percent in slammed regions like Baltimore—but it apparently took out most of its wrath on Hugh Grant‘s and Sarah Jessica Parker‘s Did You Hear About the Morgans?, which opened in fourth place, with just $7 million.

The Princess and the Frog, last weekend’s No. 1 film, fell to second, with a presumably snow-depressed $12.2 million.

Among holdovers, Up in the Air ($3.1 million; $8.1 million overall) got a Golden Globes bounce; Invictus ($4.2 million; $15.8 million overall) didn’t.

• Peter Jackson‘s The Lovely Bones didn’t get great reviews, as might be expected, and isn’t getting awards-season buzz, as was expected. To make matters worse, it looks like it got taken out by the same Did You Hear About the Morgans? storm: $41,000 at three theaters, down 65 percent from last weekend.

Among Oscar hopefuls bowing in limited release, Nine ($246,933 at four theaters) performed way better than its reviews. Everything else failed to match Avatar‘s $21,147 per-screen average, although Jeff BridgesCrazy Heart ($82,204 at four theaters) came pretty close.

2012‘s Top 10 run ended after five weekends. Worldwide, the $200 million movie has made $733 million—yes, $733 million.

Here’s a look at the weekend’s top-grossing films based on Friday-Sunday estimates as compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

  1. Avatar, $73 million
  2. The Princess and the Frog, $12.2 million
  3. The Blind Side, $10 million
  4. Did You Hear About the Morgans?, $7 million
  5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon, $4.4 million
  6. Invictus, $4.2 million
  7. Disney’s A Christmas Carol, $3.4 million
  8. Up in the Air, $3.1 million
  9. Brothers, $2.6 million
  10. Old Dogs, $2.3 million

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