Box office watchers expect widely-anticipated sci-fi movie Avatar to make more than $75 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters this coming weekend following its debut on Friday.
Industry analysts told Reuters that if the movie from Titanic director James Cameron sets cash registers ringing as much as they predict, it will be a victory for the movie and its studio 20th Century Fox, as well as for Hollywood in its latest push into 3D movies.
For a lot of older people, it's going to be the first film that they see in 3D, said Jeff Bock, box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations Co.
Don't be surprised if it hits that billion dollar mark (worldwide during its entire run) if it really takes off and becomes the event film of the season, he said.
But for Avatar's opening weekend, Bock expects the less astronomical figure of $75 million in the U.S. and Canada, although he said a $100 million opening is possible.
Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com Box Office, said the film, which will begin playing in midnight screenings Friday, could earn between $85 million and $100 million.
That would be far short of 2009's biggest three-day weekend debut, the $142.8 million raked in by vampire romance movie The Twilight Saga: New Moon last month.
Cameron's Avatar tells of a soldier from Earth sent to infiltrate members of an alien race and the bond he forms with them, including one attractive woman in particular.
Fox said this week that Avatar will open in more than 3,300 theaters domestically, including 2,100 3D locations.
Online ticket seller MovieTickets.com has said 78 percent of its advance ticket buyers for Avatar were male, while rival outlet Fandango.com said 68 percent of its Avatar customers were men.
Cameron's 1997 film Titanic made a record $1.8 billion worldwide, in large part by appealing to women who went more than once to see the film's emotional tale of ill-fated love.
While more has been made of Avatar's 3D look than its romance, Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan wrote that the film is a boys' adventure with a major romantic element and he predicted that people will see it more than once.
Avatar has received many positive reviews, and as of Thursday afternoon it had an 83 percent approval rating at critic aggregating website RottenTomatoes.com.