February 5, 2010 / 7:55 AM / in 8 years

"Avatar" poised for eighth box office win

<p>Director of the movie James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis pose at the premiere of "Avatar" at the Mann's Grauman Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California December 16, 2009.Mario Anzuoni</p>

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - This could be the last time James Cameron's "Avatar" tops the domestic box office.

By next weekend, a combination of tougher competition and declining market hold should topple the all-time box office champion from the top of the theatrical heap. But for now, an eighth consecutive session atop the rankings is all but certain for the sci-fi epic.

"Avatar," whose market dominance compares with 15 chart-topping weekends for Cameron's "Titanic" in 1997-98, should fetch $25 million or more this weekend. That should be plenty to win theatrical bragging rights for the Super Bowl frame.

Meanwhile, a pair of female-targeting pictures will open wide Friday in a counterprogramming bid to lure women and football-phobic guys away from pigskin parties.

Sony sends out the romantic drama "Dear John," with Channing Tatum ("G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra") and Amanda Siegfried ("Jennifer's Body"), and Lionsgate opens "From Paris With Love," a crime thriller starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

"John" looks to be the stronger of the new pictures, with prospects of hitting $20 million.

"It's a red-hot female picture, and they will be there in a big way," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

"Paris" will travel into lower-double-digit millions but might peter out before hitting the teens. The picture's R-rating should mean an audience tilt toward older demos, with a core base of support from Travolta fans.

"Advance screenings have proven that audiences love to see Travolta in this type of role," Lionsgate exec vp distribution David Spitz said.

Elsewhere, a handful of platform pictures expand into wide release Friday, three days after securing Academy Award nominations.

Fox Searchlight's Jeff Bridges drama "Crazy Heart," which drew nominations for its star, co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal and its theme song, will broaden to about 800 playdates from 239.

And Sony Pictures Classics' British drama "An Education," included among the 10 nominees for best picture, actress (Carey Mulligan) and adapted screenplay, will stretch to about 750 locations from 75.

Also, Lionsgate will re-expand the drama "Precious," which drew six Oscar nominations, including best-picture, to a modestly wide 669 locations.

Looking ahead to the four-day Presidents Day weekend, Warner Bros. will release likely "Avatar"-killer "Valentine's Day." With the hearts-and-flowers holiday falling on the Sunday before the nation's cherry pie celebration, "Valentine's" could woo $50 million through that Monday and easily top the box office session.

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