James Cameron's "Avatar" grossed $220 million to $230 million in its worldwide debut for 20th Century Fox, including a strong domestic launch of $73 million from 3,452 theaters, of which 2,023 were 3D runs.
Mother nature made life treacherous for "Avatar" on the East Coast of the U.S., where the worst blizzard in decades paralyzed major cities.
"Avatar" nevertheless scored the second-best launch on record for a film debuting in December, when opening weekends aren't as big, but multiples are far greater because of the lucrative Christmas-New Year's holiday.
A film normally can expect to gross three times its opening weekend, but year-end films can see multiples of four and five.
No. 1 December opening was scored by Warner Bros. Will Smith-starrer "I Am Legend" ($77.2 million).
"Avatar" narrowly bested the $72.6 million posted by Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in its first weekend. That pic grossed $377 million domestically.
The critically acclaimed "Avatar" posted glowing exits, earning an A or A+ CinemaScore across all demos.