Box-office preview: Can 'Dear John' knock 'Avatar' out of its top spot?

Avatar has now defeated Titanic in every milestone the great boat epic upheld for well over its decade in power. As the new king of the world, Avatar has every right to take its crown–and its nine Oscar nominations–and go quietly into the night. But will it? It’s held on to the top spot for a miraculous seven straight weekends, and with last weekend’s fall of only 10%, it looks like it can stay on top forever. That is, until it encounters the force of young, screaming teenage girls. Yes, Dear John looks like your typical sappy romance but don’t underestimate the power of the sap. It’s why Lifetime is a force on cable television, Valentine’s Day exists, and Hallmark is a $4.3 billion company. It also helps that Dear John sports Channing Tatum, Hollywood’s latest “It” guy who in the next two months will be in two movies based on Nicholas Sparks adaptations (he’s also in Disney’s March 31 opener The Last Song opposite Miley Cyrus). He’s done dance movies (Step Up), actioners (G.I. Joe), and now he’s taking on romance. Will he succeed? If the screaming girls at the premiere are any indication, the answer is already a yes. Read on for my predictions.

1. Dear John: $26 million
Most critics are not fans of this film, which stars Tatum and Amanda Seyfried as a young soldier and the college girl he falls for. But neither Sony, who’s distributing the movie, nor Relativity Pictures, which financed and produced it, are counting on critics to get butts in seats. Rather, this is all about the girl factor and they are expected to come out in some solid numbers this weekend. Especially considering it’s Super Bowl Sunday; What fabulous pre-teen wants to be stuck watching football all day?

2. Avatar: $25 million
It’s gotta fall 20% this frame. It’s outperformed every expectation for the last seven weekends but really, who hasn’t seen this movie by now?

3. From Paris With Love: $10 million
This R-rated actioner is the only other new wide release of the weekend and I think it’s going to be hit hard by the Super Bowl. The film stars John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as an unlikely CIA duo who take on a notorious crime ring in the streets of Paris. Travolta has been lauded for his over-the-top performance but both the poor directing by last year’s springtime hero Pierre Morel (Taken) and the muddled plot have left critics dissatisfied.

4. Edge of Darkness: $8.5 million
I don’t think this Mel Gibson-starrer is gonna hold up. Reviews weren’t great and I doubt word-of-mouth is making much of a difference. I expect we’ll be forgetting about this film rather quickly.

5. When in Rome: $5 million
Disney’s first release of the year is sure to get pounded by Dear John but it should still grab a spot in the top five for the frame.

Also this weekend: Both Crazy Heart and An Education expand wider to take advantage of the Oscar nominations for the two films. Now perhaps they’ll be coming to a theater near you.

Photo Credit: Scott Garfield


Comments (129 total) Add your comment
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  • Sarah

    I haven’t seen Avatar and have no desire to.

    • Bobby

      I guess this may be hard to believe,but I haven’t seen Avatar, no one in my family has seen it,no one I work with has seen it.In fact, I personally don’t know anyone who has seen it.Go figure.

      • Lindsay

        I also don’t know anyone who’s seen it either.

      • Gregoire

        How’s the weather in northern Alaska?

      • Cryogaijin

        Actually everyone in northern alaska has seen avatar already. :P

      • Daniel

        What planet are you from? Seriously.

      • Phil

        Sarah, sounds like you might need stronger anti depressant medication!!

    • ryan

      Yes who cares about that. I guess we could care and the wretched Gone with the wind could be number one for all time! I have a few friends wh ohave seen avatar and I finally broke down with my kids and saw it. It was really good.

      • Itchy

        Life must be good under that rock..!

      • Itchy

        Sorry, not meant to you, Ryan…

    • Eliiott

      I love how contrarians and hipsters always like to claim they never saw certain films, just to sound cool, and feel unique. And even worse: “I haven’t seen it, neither has my mailman, my doctor, my dog, and my 75 neighbors at my apartment complex”

      Yeah, right…

      • whatevs

        Well, it’s not really that suprising. If you compare the number of people who have seen the movie with the number of people there actually, it’s a pretty small percentage. Thus, it’s likely that most people you know haven’t seen it.

      • Beeeeyotch

        Whats Avatar? I have never even heard of it until now

      • Eliiott

        Please, you know that it is BS. They are just trying to be cool, and feel unique. Maybe they haven’t seen it themselves, but how coincidental that NOBODY THEY KNOW has. I call BS

      • Bobby

        I knew no one would believe me,but it’s true.Trust me,I’m not that desperate to draw attention to myself by saying that.Just because it has made so much money doesn’t mean everyone has seen it.I think the only people seeing it now are the ones going back to see it for the tenth time.Now those are the people who need to get a life.

    • Celia

      Dear John…are they serious?
      I just shouldn’t underestimate it though, it IS February. All the lovebirds need something to watch.

      • amj

        Not only will Dear John appeal to the female audience generally but isn’t this a Nicholas Sparks book? I don’t read sappy love stories but I adore Nicholas Sparks! I read the Notebook in 2 days and then one year later read it again. This is why this movie will do well because of the Nicholas Sparks fans. But, in the end, I don’t think it will beat Avatar this weekend. With the Oscar noms out I believe it will pull #1 again.

      • Grady

        I have Dear John at $22 million. I think advertising has been too strong to not factor it into the equation.

    • Damion

      Evidently because your an idiot who doesn’t enjoy truly spectacular filmmaking.

      • Gabby

        “truly spectacular filmmaking”

        Or more accurately, truly spectacular special effects. The obnoxious condescension that fanboys unleash on anyone they encounter who doesn’t bow at the alter of Avatar is really beginning to irritate. I LOVE action/fantasy/sci-fi/you name it films, but while Avatar was a very enjoyable filmgoing experience, I’m don’t particularly have any interest in seeing this movie from the comfort of my couch nor do I think people will consider this movie a classic twenty years from now – that opinion is perfectly valid and people shouldn’t be attacked for having it.

        I WILL be re-watching “The Hurt Locker,” on the other hand, for years to come.

      • Psac

        People will still consider it a classic twenty years from now for how it revolutionized film making, but not for content. But I think in spirit I agree with you.

    • ~~~~

      Actually, not that many people have seen Avatar. It’s the inflated 3D prices that are driving the box office numbers. I saw it, but only because I was paid to see it.

      • Jenny

        someone else paid for my ticket, so I saw it. It was defiantly entertaining but not the ‘movie-changing’ experience a lot of people claim it is, in my opinion. It’s really just the same action movie done bigger. I prefer movies that don’t need special effects to be good. Movies that are carried by the actors, the story and the director’s POV. Therefore, a movie that thrives on special effects alone (because let’s face it, the storyline sucked) will not change the way I see movies.

    • GS

      My family hasn’t seen it. Not say we don’t want to but have had better things to do.

    • Zach

      Sarah, bobby, lindsey – seriously… thats a pretty sweet rock youre living under. i’ll visit it sometime when i plan on killing myself.

      btw – hahaha <- that was for thinking this lame movie will top avatar… rediculous.

  • Marie

    “Avatar has now defeated Titanic in every milestone the great boat epic upheld for well over its decade in power”……..except for actual tickets sold. but who cares about that right, people are only concerned about the money.

    • troyrumpf

      Excellent point Marie. People seem to forget that – aside from inflation – many ticketbuyers have to shell out an additional $3 or so for the honor of seeing this in 3D. The numbers are very misleading.

      • JonDoe

        “the numbers are misleading”…really? I would say $2.1 billion is not a very misleading number…lol. Just more people trying to bring down Avatar’s achievement at the box office. Nothing new here. The ticket prices of Avatar are higher yes, but the law of demand says higher prices lead to lower demand yet it continues to sell, after only 47 days or so. Titanic was in theaters for 9 months.

      • Lindsay

        If you are talking about demand, JonDoe, than you need to talk number of tickets sold, not money made (because of price changes and inflation). Otherwise, its apples and oranges (ie. comparing two different unit measurements) and not economically sound.

      • Itchy

        I’m sure that Fox and James Cameron are JUST fine with that number, thank you very much – inflation be DANGED! WAH WAH WAH INFLATION!

      • Matt1

        WOW!… Where’s all this sudden hatred coming from!? Sounds familiar from about 12 years ago when Titanic made a $hitload of money and everyone suddenly got jealous and it became “cool” to not like it or claim to have never seen it, which we all know is BS!
        This stupid “John” movie will make about $10 million over the weekend. It’s gotten horrible reviews and will come nowhere near Avatar for number 1. Not til next week will we see Avatar fall, either to Wolfman or that horrible looking Valentines Day.

      • amj

        Actually Lindsay, John Doe stated that correctly. He stated that due to higher prices normally demand should fall but people are willing to pay for that 3D ticket. It really is the best way to enjoy this film. And, like it or not, it will bring on a new run on great 3D films. It’s already been announced that the new Harry Potter will be in 3D. And, I say give Avatar the six months first before you judge number of tickets sold (i.e. Apples and oranges–6 weeks vs. 6 months).

      • Gabby

        @amj: But when part of the film’s whole appeal hinges on the fact that the 3-D experience is supposed to be amazing I’d say people are much more willing to pay the higher ticket prices that at a normal blockbuster movie, so it balances out.

    • RA

      Really, guys? Give me a break. Even with the higher ticket prices it is pretty much an unequivocal success. I mean, c’mon Avatar haters, how far do you want to twist logic before you admit your argument doesn’t hold water anymore. It won’t be much longer before it passes actual ticket count at this rate anyway. Then all you will have left is your lame “Gone With The Wind / Inflation” argument. Lame

      • bill

        Box Office Mojo estimates that Avatar has sold about half the number of tickets that Titanic sold, but is on par with LOTR: Return of the King and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Certainly very good company, and it’s not close to done.

    • Kate

      You conveniently forget that it took Titanic MONTHS to hit $600 million. It took Avatar WEEKS.
      It also took Titanic like a year to arrive on VHS (this was pre-DVD, people) and you didn’t have the option of watching a bootleg.
      If you’re going to whinge about inflation and ticket prices, look at OTHER factors, too, yeah? Wild concept.

      • Zo

        I think there are also about 1 billion more people on the planet now than 12 years ago. Something to think about… Now I’m not a fan of “Titanic” and don’t feel the urge to see “Avatar”, but people might want to factor that in too.

    • Christopher

      Titanic never held the all time tickets sold record, so Avatar can’t beat Titanic at it.

    • Kat

      Well said, Marie.

      I know you all know this, but the Top 6 films for the most tickets sold are as follows:

      1. Gone with The Wind
      2. Star Wars
      3. The Sound of Music
      4. ET
      5. The Ten Commandments
      6. Titanic
      21. Avatar
      (boxofficemojo.com)

      Personally, I think Avatar will win the weekend Box Office, but then, I’ve actually seen the movie.

  • castiella

    I’m with Sarah.

    • vince

      Looks like you and Sarah are missing out bigtime.

      • Mark

        They are? Why? Did they re-edit Dances with Smurfs into a good movie?

  • Fred

    HAH!!!
    AVATAR will shock the industry again….and come out on top this weekend…..its becoming the hottest date film this year…no stopping AVATAR!!!

    • Flim

      Avatar, a date movie? I feel bad for your dates.

      • Eliiott

        Actually, AVATAR has something for everyone, even the date crowd: Dazzling special effects and amazing action for the boys, a heartbreaking romance for the girls.
        Several romantic comedies have flopped already, trampled by Avatar, (LEAP YEAR, WHEN IN ROME) and I wouldn’t be surprised if not only Dear John, but next week’s VALENTINE’s DAY didn’t break out, thanks to the Na’Vi juggernaut…

      • amj

        Actually when I went the theatre was filled with people of all ages and types. There was an entire row of over 60 who were clearly out to a “date” movie. This is truly a movie reaching a vast audience. And, 3D or not, it would have made money.

  • whatevs

    That’s a pretty generous estimate for a sappy crapfest like that.

  • Lauren

    Um… check your facts. Channing Tatum is NOT in The Last Song. Liam Hemsworth is starring opposite Miley Cyrus.

  • jekillhide

    Get your facts right. Channing Tatum IS NOT in The Last Song. That is Liam Hemsworth.

  • Nic S

    CHanning tatum is not in the last song

  • RCD

    Is Channing Tatum in The Last Song?

    • RPS

      l think so. l’d Google it, but don’t care.

  • chrisfinley

    FACT CHECK YOUR STORIES PLEASE! As “jekillhide” pointed out, Channing Tatum is NOT in “The Last Song.” They are both Nicholas Sparks movies, but they do NOT both star Channing Tatum.

  • Harry K

    Why are you considering the Super Bowl a factor for bother movies? IT’S ON SUNDAY NIGHT!

    Most people go see movies Friday, Saturday, or Sunday afternoon.

    And did you really write ‘gonna’? What a quality article.

  • Matty

    I’m thinking that the fact that Avatar was just nominated for 9 Oscars this week will help it this weekend. No?

  • MaxwellHouser

    Nicole the movie is pg-13 pre-teens should be banned from seeing this garbage, but your predictions seem correct

  • Flim

    I’m just happy EW finally took off Twilight from it’s Special Coverage section atop their main page.

    • Ambient Lite

      I would anticipate the triumphant return of the Twilight tab in a couple of months.

      • tatiana

        i am pretty sure that one of the movies that can kick avatar out of the top spot is one of the twilight movies..!! GO TWILIGHT!!
        i also think dear john has a good chance

      • LOL

        You think freakin’ Eclipse can somehow make $600 million? I have a bridge to sell you…

      • Mike

        The Twilight movies have no “legs.” New Moon made half its money in the first weekend.

  • A

    The weekend battle between the tweens and nerds. Who will win?

    • SXD

      Why do I find you posting on every avatar forum?

      • A

        This isn’t just an Avatar forum, it’s about the box office for the weekend. Are you stalking me? If you see me in every Avatar forum, that means you are there too, right?

      • SXD

        I’ve only seen you once. I just find it funny that you always have an avatar related commnet despite how opposed you are to the movie.

    • lol

      And “A” crawls out from under his (her? can’t tell lol) rock again to mumble some gibberish. You are truly sad.

      • Fred

        AVATAR will just not go away……talk about box office…only one thing to discuss….AVATAR!!!

      • A

        What’s sadder, me making a comment on an article or you just coming in here to make a comment on my comment? I’m honored I garner so much attention.

      • SXD

        I think you’re sadder A. At least I admit openly that I love Avatar. Can you do it? You know you want too! You’re not gonna convince me that avatar hasn’t impacted you until one of your posts doesn’t actually mention it or refer to someone who was talking about it.

      • SXD

        @ A
        “I’m honored I garner so much attention” It’s not hard to do, you just make an *ss of yourself.

      • damon

        SXD you hit it right on the jackpot.. A is making such an *ss out of himself.. i come on EW to check whats happening with Avatar and this poor guy must have never been loved.. some how i want to feel sorry for the dude (or girl, which would make it worse for some reason) but i ain’t.. to each it’s own.. A your a sorry little person

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