James Cameron Takes Financial Risk with "Avatar"

Investing hundreds of millions of dollars in James Cameron's "Avatar" is a bet likely to pay off for 20th Century Fox.

Cameron has a box-office track record matched by few. And, in case there was any worry, Fox is running an enormous advertising campaign that included the unusual step of previewing 15 minutes of the film nationwide in August.

But however many millions "Avatar" earns, it clearly sits firmly in the grand tradition of audacious Hollywood spectacles — the kind of over-the-top, go-for-broke grabs for silver screen glory.

There have been movies that took risks with social progressiveness ("The Defiant Ones," "Brokeback Mountain"), that gambled with casting ("Valkyrie," "Precious") and that upended convention ("Taxi Driver," "Pulp Fiction"), The Associated Press reports.

It was also reported, colossal budget, visionary technology and a down-to-the-wire workload on a film whose fortunes are a real question mark.

James Cameron has been here before on little ditties called “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Titanic.” In case anyone’s forgotten how that worked out for him, “Titanic” stacked up 11 Academy Awards, best picture and director among them, and a record $1.8 billion worldwide at the box office.

This time, Cameron’s vision is riding on “Avatar,” a science-fiction epic aiming to push the bounds of digital filmmaking and 3-D presentation into the heavens, with a reported price tag well in excess of the $200 million spent to make “Titanic,” msnbc.com reports.

Meanwhile, Washington-based commentator Nile Gardiner, writing in the Daily Telegraph, gives an early glimpse of the way the film will be covered by the op-ed and television punditry crowd in an column cautioning Jim Cameron that he should make his movies but stiflethe sound-bytes about the war in Iraq: "I have little doubt that Avatar will be a massive global hit when it opens worldwide on December 18th, and the early reviews are largely positive, with a 90 percent current approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website. But its expected success won’t be due to cinemagoers wanting to watch an expensive sermon on US foreign policy, but because they want to be entertained by the most advanced 3-D special effects ever put on screen...The US public is frankly tired of the anti-war rhetoric of the Left, which has sounded increasingly hollow since the success of the surge in Iraq."

"Avatar" will gross $187 million in its first four weeks: That very specific number comes to us via Josh Levin at Slate who writes that his fear that the movie would be another "Battlefield Earth" is now receding: "My money's on blockbuster. Supporting evidence for the cat-people-as-cash-cow theory can be found on the Hollywood Stock Exchange. As of Thursday evening, Avatar is trading at 187.09 on HSX, a prediction market that Anita Elberse, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, says has a proven track record of prognosticating box-office revenues. That 187.09 figure means HSX traders believe the movie will make close to $187 million in its first four weeks of domestic release—a figure that would put the movie well on its way to profitability..." The Los Angeles Times reports.

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