December's Box Office Battle: Avatar Versus Sherlock Holmes

Warning: the following article is highly anecdotal. I do a lot of my writing in public: cafes, bars, etc. Working from home offers a lot of distractions, so I work among strangers. (Less distraction that way; go figure.) That leads to a lot of casual conversations about upcoming movies, what's good and what people hope will be good. And while the data that comes out of all those conversations is completely unreliable in any real sense, it does lead to certain conclusions.

Over the last few weeks as I talk to people, there's one movie that almost everyone asks about or pegs as the film they're excited to see: Sherlock Holmes. The film comes up in almost every casual conversation now. Avatar runs way behind it. Now some tracking data is out there that suggests that audiences are a lot more interested in Sherlock than Avatar. But could an awards nomination bump act as last-minute juice for Fox and James Cameron and change the playing field?

Jeff Wells is printing some tracking data that puts awareness of Sherlock Holmes above 75% in all categories, and has 'definite interest' in the film ranked above 40% for men and women both over and under 25. This comes just as critics in LA are starting to see the film. Some are reversing previously skeptical positions — Devin at CHUD noted over Twitter that, while he "didn't love it like others did" he was "amazed at how true to the source material" this filmed Sherlock Holmes is.

But Avatar may have a gambit left. Over at HitFix, Greg Ellwood is relating some completely anecdotal stories about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's reaction to Avatar. According to his sources the HFPA loved it to death — loved it enough that when the group releases its Golden Globes nominations next week Cameron's movie could show up in the Best Picture (Drama) and Best Director categories.

This could be a couple of different things. Could be a serious exaggeration, or an accurate relaying of how the HFPA genuinely responded to the film, or the end game of a calculated plan by Fox. There are many who'll tell you that the Golden Globes are as close to bought and paid for as possible. If that's the case, then it's not much of a jump to see Fox exerting some influence over the association to get Avatar on the outfit's nominations list next week, only days before the film opens.

Between the two, I'm leaning towards Holmes, if only because when it comes to escapism, Holmes looks like a lot more fun. T-minus 15 hours to the Avatar screening, so will know half the equation soon.