Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Will There Be Enough Theaters To Show "Avatar?"

James Cameron's 3-D extravaganza "Avatar" isn't scheduled to come out until 2009. The BBC was the only site I saw that gave Cameron's estimate of how many movie screens would be available to show it by then. Cameron says 1000-2000 cinemas. It's unclear if he means 1000-2000 cinemas with multiple screens available at each location or simply 1000-2000 screens equipped for 3-D. The latter seems more likely. Some people will soon start worrying: isn't that a puny amount of screens for a $200 million movie, when 4000+ screen launches are becoming routine? As we've learned in recent months, the answer is definitely no. The vast majority of money a movie makes comes on basically 800-1200 screens, with the lst 5% to 10% of earnings coming on the other 2000+ screens. If only 1000 screens are available, that will be plenty of seats to score huge grosses. Yep, just like "Titanic" the movie will have to play and play rather than squeezing out every penny from the start. But three months after the movie opens, it could still be playing to full houses and that makes for a MUCH better movie-going experience than a 4000+ screen rollout with half empty houses by week three. Cameron may just teach Hollywood the pleasures of a "limited" release again.

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