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‘Avatar’ Snows the Competition

Despite snowstorms that battered the East Coast and kept many moviegoers at home, the sci-fi epic Avatar still managed out-of-this-world numbers.

James Cameron's space opera collected $73 million, according to Nielsen EDI studio estimates. It tallied an additional $159 million overseas.

The debut was $3 million above the projections of many analysts, who thought that weather, the length of the film (2 hours, 40 minutes) and additional ticket charges (most were $15 for the digital IMAX experience) would temper returns.

As usual, Cameron proved his critics wrong, scoring the largest debut for a 3-D film. And, as usual, he claimed he would. "People aren't going to be bothered by the cost because it's still one of the best bargains around," Cameron said earlier this month.

"We were braced for the weather to hit us hard," said Chris Aronson of 20th Century Fox. "But I think a lot of people ran out and saw the movie before the storm and hunkered down."

The test now for the $300 million opus is how it plays through the holidays. Many industry forecasters say the movie will need to take in $750 million worldwide to cover marketing and production costs.

The debut also ensures that overall movie ticket sales this year, already $9.96 billion, will cross the $10 billion mark for the first time.

Moviegoers who couldn't get into Avatar or weren't in the mood for blue aliens combined to boost other pictures and overall attendance, up 48% from last weekend.

The Princess and the Frog dropped 50% from its debut last week to take second place and $12.2 million. It has done $44.8 million in 10 days.

The Blind Side continues to batter the opposition, taking in $10 million for third place and $164.7 million overall.

The only new movie to open against Avatar was the Sarah Jessica Parker/Hugh Grant comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? Not many people did: The film did $7 million, about $6 million below some projections.

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