Update: Avatar just keeps on breaking records and barriers…

The weekend’s nearly over and the estimates for James Cameron’s Avatar are in. We’re looking at a $73 million domestic opening and just over $159 million worldwide bring its town debut gross at over $232 million.

Are these good or bad? Well, fans of the industry should be happy to know that this is the largest opening ever for an original film not based on an existing property (novel, short story) or film (sequel, remake) – so that’s always a win. It beat out Lord of the Rings: Return of the King for best December opening and (Update) might just squeeze past I am Legend. It’s also James Cameron’s biggest debut and I think Terminator 2, Aliens and Titanic were decent hits looking back on things…

That being said, some forecasts expected a domestic gross of mid to high-eighties so it fell short on that front with some blame being placed on the major snowstorms that hit the U.S. East coast over the weekend.

While it’s hard to get a clear-cut idea of what the production budget and marketing expenses are for the the blockbuster 3D epic, some say it may have reached as high as half a billion. Putting it into perspective, though, the film will almost certainly make that back once it has finished its run in theaters and then it’ll be a massive hit on Blu-ray and a big push into 3D home video. Fox made an investment in James Cameron’s project not for just this movie, but for the tech developed to bring it to life for other future projects that have other big-name directors everywhere excited to use it themselves.

And if they decide to go forward with an Avatar sequel, the ground-work, design, development and training has all been done and they’ll be able to go forward at a fraction of the cost.

James Cameron and Fox Studios are confident that positive critical reception and strong word-of-mouth will help carry the film over the next weeks. And if you remember, his last movie Titanic (yes, that was 12 years ago) opened at the same time and actually increased in box office numbers the following week.

That’s not to say that Avatar will improve on its numbers next week like we saw with Titantic, especially with Sherlock Holmes opening Christmas Day, but I do expect relatively strong numbers in the weeks to come.

If you’ve not seen it yet, or are waiting till it’s not as busy in the theaters or until Christmas is over – go see it. Avatar is one of the greatest theater-viewing experiences I’ve ever had and something that I needed to see twice to fully appreciate. While some say the story is bland or character development isn’t as strong as could be, don’t buy into that. There’s as good a story and characters here than any other film this year (and I watched quite a few movies) and if there is one movie I had to recommend people go see more than any other, James Cameron’s Avatar is it.

Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi and Laz Alonso. If you have seen it, join Screen Rant’s Avatar spoiler discussion and share your thoughts.

Sources: Box Office Mojo, Collider