Why Avatar Will Be a Huge Hit

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Will James Cameron's Avatar be a flop? Since those alienoid blue cat people have taken hostage television advertising, I've sensed a groundswell of gripes that movie meant to be the mega-blockbuster to end all mega-blockbusters would in fact be the mega-flop to end Cameron's megalomaniacal ambition. But today Slate, ever the defenders of the middlebrow, has persuaded me to sit back and prepare myself for the inevitable: I'm going to love this alienoid blue cat people movie if it's the last thing I do.


Josh Levin hits us with some blockbuster stats and science. The evidence for mega-hit is plentiful:

(1) The Hollywood Stock Exchange, which has a proven track record of guessing box-office revenues, predicts a four-week gross of $187 million.

(2) A Yahoo Research paper that uses online search activity to predict box office performance predicts an opening weekend of $65 million to $84 million.

(3) Location, location, location -- on your calendar and in your theaters. Avatar's release date of December 18 plants it firmly in the yuletide current, which carries movies farther and faster toward profitability than other weekend dates. Moreover the film's raison d'etre (besides giving Cameron's producers more money to roll around in) is to usher in the age of the 3-D live-action blockbuster. Opening on 2,500 3-D screens in the United States, it should benefit from the 30 percent to 40 percent premiums on 3-D tickets.

Stats are good. But let's not forget the human element in this extraterrestrial romp: Director James Cameron. The ability of Cameron's oeuvre to seemingly print money for his backers is rivaled perhaps only by the Federal Reserve. His last three feature films (Titanic, True Lies and Terminator 2) have grossed $2.7 billion worldwide. As Levin notes, those movies each made more than 60 percent of their gross overseas. Attention Avatar haters: Don't bet a against a guy who can make grown men hoot, tween girls weep and Tom Arnold seem funny.

Oh and there's this other thing: Apparently the movie rocks.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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