"Sherlock" takes on "Avatar" at holiday box office

Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:41am EST
 
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Like so many pricey Christmas presents, Hollywood opens a pair of wide releases Friday, "Sherlock Holmes" and "It's Complicated." A third -- "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" -- opens Wednesday to get a jump on the holiday weekend.

Warner Bros.' "Sherlock Holmes," starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, is the strongest candidate to top the three-day session, eyeing $50 million or more through Sunday. The film appears to boast broad prerelease interest, though critical reaction bears watching.

But don't count out incumbent champ "Avatar," which could enjoy an unusually strong hold following its $77.3 million debut last weekend. Fox's costly 3D release was hampered by an East Coast snowstorm, and some of that lost business should buoy the film during its second round.

"Alvin," also from Fox, should come in just short of the $44 million domestic debut of its 2007 predecessor. Holiday celebrations might dilute its Friday grosses modestly, and some of the box office cream for the Chipmunks tale will have been scooped off the top in its first two days.

Universal's romantic comedy "It's Complicated," starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, should figure somewhere in the double-digit millions. Its prospects are tied to support among older female moviegoers.

Also this weekend, a handful of awards contenders will mount major expansions. Those include the Weinstein Co.'s musical "Nine," Focus Features' drama "A Serious Man" and Paramount's George Clooney vehicle "Up in the Air."

On an industrywide basis, Hollywood has a tough year-ago comparison. Box office for the weekend of December 26-28 totaled a huge $201.6 million, bolstered by the $36.4 million bow of "Marley & Me" and three other $20 million-plus openings.

On the other hand, the industry's year-end tally will be fattened by an extra weekend squeezed into 2009, namely next weekend's New Year's frame. Nielsen EDI always starts its boxoffice year on the first business day after New Year's weekend, which this time will be January 4.

 
<p>Cast member Robert Downey Jr. attends the premiere of "Sherlock Holmes" in New York, December 17, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>