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Will "Avatar" Turn Gold for Cameron?

The new, big-budget film "Avatar," from director James Cameron, is sparking big buzz in Hollywood -- both good and bad.

But will that buzz translate into box office gold?

Moviegoers will have to wait to find out -- but the wait should be shorter than the 12 years since Cameron's last film.

CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports it's been that long since "Titanic" topped box office records, with $1.8 billion. That success, she says, enabled Cameron to focus on pretty much whatever he wanted. And, what he wanted most was to create something completely different.

Holiday Movies 2009
James Cameron
World Premiere of "Avatar"

Jeff Giles, executive editor of Entertainment Weekly, told CBS News, "After Titanic, you pretty much get a blank check to do whatever you want."

And "Avatar," is what James Cameron spent it on.

For "Avatar," Cameron created another world and developed new 3-D technology so the audience could live there --- for at least a couple of hours.

Solorzano says Cameron has pushed the technological envelope before -- but he's also pushed budgets.

"Terminator 2" was the first film to cost a studio $100 million, while "Titanic" was the first to run $200 million.

So just how big was the budget on what Twentieth Century Fox hopes to be this year's biggest holiday blockbuster?

Giles said, "The studio has been very up-front, because speculation is out of control. So they came out and said it cost $237 million to make and $150 million (has been or will be laid out for) marketing on it."

While Cameron may not have broken the bank this time out, expectations for the movie are pretty high.

Giles said, "I don't know if it will have allure of 'Titanic.' The movie's strength is mostly technology. It feels like you are on this moon in the middle of a jungle."

"James Cameron," he added, "isn't going to be thrown out of Hollywood. He has taken bigger risks and he has come out smiling, and he probably will this time, too."

Thom Geier, senior editor of Entertainment Weekly, said on "The Early Show" the movie works: "It's a huge spectacle and there's a lot of eye candy there. The fan boys are really going to come out and get their geek on."

Geier added the movie doesn't have the same emotional resonance as "Titanic," despite "Avatar"'s love story and perceived associations with Vietnam and Native Americans. He said, "You're not going to get the teenage girls tripping out eight times to see Leonard DiCaprio."

Can the movie make its money back?

Geier said there's a good chance it will, from box office earnings, DVD sales, foreign box office earnings and TV rights purchasing. "Certainly," he continued, "there's a lot of interest and a lot of enthusiasm from the people who have seen the film early on."

"Avatar" opens nationwide this Friday.

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