AvatarUPDATE: Variety is now reporting that 'Avatar's' final weekend tally was $77.3 million.

A not-so-funny thing happened to 'Avatar' on its way to a December opening weekend box office record: the East Coast's first major winter storm came between moviegoers and their multiplexes and kept Jim Cameron's sci-fi epic from topping 'I Am Legend's' $77.2 million record.

Based on Friday's $27 million gross, box office analysts had projected 'Avatar's' opening weekend total at $80-85 million. Instead, it settles for an estimated $73 million.

With the rave reviews of the nation's hardest-to-please critics and good word of mouth, 'Avatar' will get past this speed bump and continue at a full gallop. Overnight, 'Avatar' went from an Oscar long-shot on most critics' polls to a front-runner, and with nominations almost certain to come from most of the industry guilds next month, it will be filling theaters -- especially those showing it in 3-D -- for weeks to come.