Here’s the thing about Avatar.
As much as it should be hated and despised for how the studio has spent the last six months trying to position it — as a movie you absolutely, positively, 100 percent need to see under the penalty of cultural bankruptcy — it’s actually working. They’re breaking me down.
Could it be the movie that changes how movies are seen? (Probably not.) Is it the movie that finishes what Phantom Menace started and makes actors completely useless for anything other than voices? (Doubt it.) Will its sheer power force every theater in the country to build a 3-D theater? (Not a chance.)
But even if it doesn’t change the world of movies forever, it’s at least forced you to think about the possibility that it might. Admit it — even if you have no interest whatsoever in sci-fi, if you’d rather hitchhike and get picked up by Large Marge than see another fight-in-space movie, you’ve at least thought for a stray second, “Well, I’m not doing anything Saturday afternoon, maybe I can catch a matinee just to see what all the fuss is about.”
It’s even gotten to me, and I’m the one who said James Cameron telling people for the last three years that this film will change movies is the equivalent of giving yourself a nickname — the #23 no-no in the official Unwritten Laws of Being a Guy. The guy hasn’t directed a movie since Aquaman, his movie before that (Titanic) is one of the most boring movies of all time before the last hour, and he’s going to tell me about how great his movie is before he’s even shot a frame of it? It is at this point when I think about Avatar that I’d like to give him the Kent treatment and stick him in a house full of exploding popcorn.
Then you try to watch a football game or any TV show on Fox or FX and you’re beseiged with the commercials. BE-SEIEGED. You can’t avoid them. If you try, you burn a hole in your remote trying to change the channels or fast forward through them. That’s when your blood starts to boil.
But soon, it breaks you down. You read the reviews about how it just may be the best movie of the year. You’re intrigued by the Golden Globe nomination for best picture. You realize that it’s not your average wham-bam action movie that your girlfriend would rather bite off her own toenails than see.
The doubters have their reasons, but whether Avatar becomes one of the biggest movies ever or not, Fox has accomplished at least one thing. The studio successfully has made Avatar an event movie.
And this isn’t sour grapes — but Avatar won’t make $100 million this weekend. There are just too many things conspiring against it, including the weekend weather report in the Mid-Atlantic that might miss us, but looks like it will snow-in D.C., Philly and parts of Long Island. Plus, it’s more than two-and-a-half hours long and doesn’t seem to be showing on as many screens at local theaters. At the Stroud Mall, it’s only on one screen, three shows a day. New Moon was on two screens. At my theater, the Cinemark 20 in Moosic, it’s showing on four screens — two of them 3-D screens — when the summer blockbusters showed on six. If I were James Cameron, I’d consider it pretty impressive if it makes $80 million this weekend. Sure, it’s not nearly as good as Aquaman, but he’ll just have to live with it.
The good news — it’s only got what seems like one smidgen of competition through January and probably until Valentine’s Day, Sherlock Holmes. Alvin and the Chipmunks is going after a completely different audience, so there’s no reason to think two supposedly smart action franchises can’t co-exist and both make heaps of money. It might be telling, however, that Warner Brothers didn’t have a problem delaying Holmes — it was originally slated for a November release — to set it up for a head-to-head duel with Avatar. It decided it would rather avoid New Moon than Avatar.
Hey, look! There actually is more going on in the world than just Avatar. Allentown native Amanda Seyfried is leaving Big Loveafter this year to pursue a full-time movie career. It probably comes a year too late, she might have wanted to capitalize on her Mamma Mia! juice before that faded and now she’s stuck telling casting directors, “Yeah, I was, umm, the second lead in … uh, Jennifer’s Body.” She’s the first person in a while that’s decided to abandon her TV career in pursuit of movies full time, a trend I hope stops with her. A show like The Office would have been dead a long time ago if Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fisher and Ed Helms would have jumped ship at the first sign of movie success. Helms just starred in the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, and three months later, he was back in Scranton playing the fifth lead sending a girl he barely knows all the presents of 12 days of Christmas.
For that, we thank him. They decided to stick around instead of jumping on the big bucks of the movies and continue to make one of the funniest shows on TV. We’re all better off for that even if we’re not better off for License to Wed, The Brothers Solomon or Evan Almighty.
It isn’t awards season without griping, jealousy and rumors. Our favorite trifecta! The best one on this list is that The Hurt Locker and Invictus shouldn’t win because they haven’t made much money. Where have these people been? Since when do Oscar-worthy movies make any money? Every now and then there is the exception, like Titanic. But of the last 20 best pic nomsat the Oscars, wanna take a guess at how many of them have made over $100 million? Take a second and think about it. In the meantime, I’ll tell you that in those four movie years (2005-08), 95 movies have topped $100 million including The Pacifier, Wild Hogs and Eagle Eye. Still thinking? It’s four $100-million Oscar noms and two of them were last year (Slumdog, Ben Button). Juno and The Departed were the others. Why did no one seem to care that Brokeback didn’t make a huge amount of money until January and Letters from Munich barely registered? What a crock. I shutter to think what would happen if Oscars went by box office grosses.