Avatar is number one with $73M opening

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

James Cameron's 3-D sci-fi epic Avatar was the weekend's number-one film, as expected, and pulled in a robust estimated $73 million domestically, which was nevertheless a bit below expectations.

The total fell short of the $77.2 million record debut for the month, set two years ago by Will Smith's I Am Legend, the Associated Press reported.

It's possible the opening weekend box office was hampered by a major blizzard now afflicting the northeastern United States.

The good news for the movie is that it garnered a whopping $159 million in foreign markets, just below 2012's worldwide debut last month, HitFix reported.

It's unclear whether Avatar will succeed in recouping its estimated $300 million production cost, plus marketing and other costs, in its initial run, though that's the hope.

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