$230 Million Spent on Visual Effects for "Avatar"

Sunday the weekend box-office total for "Avatar" was boosted by $10.3 million, a sign of strong momentum going into the holidays.

The James Cameron-directed 3-D adventure ended up selling $77 million of tickets in the U.S. and Canada, distributor 20th Century Fox said today. On Sunday morning, the studio estimated it would reach $73 million by the end of the day.

In the 106 foreign countries where "Avatar" debuted last week, it grossed $165.5 million through Sunday. The studio's estimate Sunday morning was $159.2 million.

Its final worldwide opening weekend total is $242.5 million.

Studios predict total weekend grosses on Sunday mornings based on Friday and Saturday ticket sales. It's rare that they significantly underestimate such figures. When it happens, it's usually a sign that word-of-mouth is particularly strong, resulting in a smaller drop from Saturday to Sunday than is typical, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Meanwhile, it takes a lot of data center horsepower to create the stunning visual effects behind blockbuster movies such as King Kong, X-Men, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and most recently, James Cameron’s $230 million Avatar. Tucked away in Wellington, New Zealand are the facilities where visual effects company Weta Digital renders the imaginary landscapes of Middle Earth and Pandora at a campus of studios, production facilities, soundstages and a purpose-built data center.

The 10,000 square foot server farm manages thousands of work orders and a serious amount of data. Information Management magazine reports on the creative artists and rendering done for the movie, as well as the thoroughbred data center supporting it.

For the last month or more of production those 40,000 processors were handling 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, running 24 hours a day. A final copy of Avatar equated to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage. For a 166 minute movie the rendering coordination was intense, DataCenterKnowledge.com reports.

It was also reported, when "Avatar" appeared that a whole host of smaller, specialty films were lining up to fill the available slots -- in the process, undermining the Academy's attempt to reach out to a wider audience -- Fox's "Avatar," with a veritable flourish of trumpets, has ridden to the rescue.

There were plenty of skeptics awaiting the years-in-the-making film with a show-me attitude. But once it began screening two weeks ago, and in the wake of its opening Friday, James Cameron's space odyssey has redefined the awards-season contests.

Critically, the movie's collective reviews stand at 83 out of 100 on the Metacritic Web site. At RottenTomatoes.com, 83% of the movie's notices were positive, and among the site's sampling of top critics, the approval rate rose to 94%. Even the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan, one of the loudest voices torpedoing Cameron's "Titanic" in 1997, hailed the filmmaker's new movie, praising it for restoring "a sense of wonder to the moviegoing experience" and testifying "the film's romantic protagonists paradoxically end up feeling like creatures whose fates we care more about than we did Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's on the boat," ABC News reports.

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