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"Avatar" becomes king of the (box office) world

Self-proclaimed "king of the world" director James Cameron has just upstaged himself.

The filmmaker's sci-fi fantasy epic "Avatar" has surpassed his own 1997 record-setting disaster movie "Titanic" to become the highest-grossing movie ever, not accounting for ticket price inflation, foreign currency fluctuations and surcharges on 3-D screens.

Through Monday, "Avatar" racked up $1.85 billion in worldwide ticket sales, edging past "Titanic's" $1.84 billion -- a feat it achieved in less than 40 days, according to the film's distributor, 20th Century Fox.

"Avatar's" domestic take of $554.9 million still slightly trails "Titanic's" $600.7 million, but overseas it has taken in slightly more, $1.30 billion to the earlier film's $1.24 billion.

However, "Titanic" still rules the universe in terms of how many people went to see it compared to the number that have lined up for "Avatar."

As Bruce Nash estimates on his box office site the-numbers.com, domestic ticket sales for "Avatar" would have to reach $925 million in today's dollars to match, on an inflation-adjusted basis, the box office that "Titanic" achieved in 1997. Given the current estimated average ticket prices of $7.46, "Avatar" still needs to sell about 50 million more tickets before it matches the inflation-adjusted domestic gross of "Titanic."

While it may be a long shot that "Avatar" would ever reach that milestone, the film continues to have strong "legs," which in Hollywood parlance means staying power. Its weekend-to-weekend box office declines have been minimal compared with that of a typical movie.

In its sixth weekend, the movie dropped only 18% domestically and 16% internationally, according to Fox. 
"Avatar" is still playing on 16,000 screens worldwide, with 72% of its ticket sales coming from 3-D screens.

We're now waiting to hear what Cameron will say at the Oscars on March 7 if he and "Avatar" take top honors. How about "I'm lord of the universe"?

--Claudia Eller

Photo: Kirk McKoy (Los Angeles Times)

Comments () | Archives (17)

No. He won't be saying "I'm lord of the universe" because it was never said in the film. The "king of the world" is a direct quote from Titanic.

Congratulation to Mr Cameron. I have watched Avatar 3 times. It is by far the most satisfying movie that I ever watched.

I looked forward to your next movie.

I'm so glad I saw 'Avatar' in Imax 3D the first day while the glasses were still clean. ...It's a joke people!!!


Yeah, I don't get why people are so caught up with him saying "king of the world." Its a direct quote from the movie that got him the award, and it fit with the situation. Any idiot would get that he didn't mean it as a boast.

Anyway, good job for Avatar. Looks like it'll hit 2 billion sometime next week.

Titanics $1.843 Billion in 1998 = $2.450 Billion in 2010 dollars!

Avatar still has a long way to go to beat Titanic!

I bet George Lucas and Steven Speilberg are extra jealous of Mr. James Cameron. When Cameron said there was no way he could ever top Titanic, I think he meant that. I don't think anyone could have predicted this level of success--it is mind-blowing. James Cameron is in a different category all by himself now, with nobody else even close.

Avatar is the best movie ever watch favourite movie no doubt

The 2.45 billion adjusted record might not be safe either (ignoring the fact that WW grosses are impossible to calculate due to foreign currency fluctuations). Avatar will pass the 2 billion dollar mark sometime next week. And don't forget that Avatar's still been in theaters for only 41 days. Titanic was in theaters for over 200.

If all things were fair, every box office total would end with asterisk.

Adjustments for inflation are only one part of the picture. When "Titanic" came out, DVD's had just entered the marketplace that same year, and players were still very expensive. The DVD version of the movie didn't come out until 18 months after the theatrical release.

Today's audience has many more options available to them, and as such, seeing the film in a theater isn't as important to them as it was in 1997. Many will wait the usual couple of months to see it on home video.

Unfortunately, all of that skews the numbers against 'Avatar" in favor of "Titantic".

Where does "Avatar" place in those rankings that adjust for inflation, doesn't "Gone with the Wind" still place really high?

Star Wars will always be king, regardless of the ticket sales.

Star Wars grossed $460 million at $1 per ticket.

460 million tickets sold. That number destroys Titanic and Avatar.

Not that I didn't like Avatar, it was freaking sweet. Cameron is one of the best directors/movie visionaries around.

Uh, I don't remember paying $1 dollar to see Star Wars.
More like $3.50 or $4.00.
And a big gulp did not cost only a nickle ;-)

All the comparisons I read in press missed the most meaning comparison, namely in the rate of revenue. When comparing to Titanic, for example, it is more acturate and fair to state what was its adjusted revenue or number of ticket sale at this point of release (say 45 days after the release). This is especially meaningful since both movies came out in the same time frame of the year and Avatar is still running whose final return is unknown at this point. So the meaningful question is which movies has sold more tickets at this point of release? If I had to guess, I would say Avatar. Whether or not it will surpass the Titanic at its end of run is hard to predict. But the fact that we are asking the question is indicative of Avatar's extrodinary power in many dimensions, since no other film had ever been put in such intensive speculations against Titanic. Final point: what if we could transport the three movies, Titanic, Gone with the wind, and Avatar, to a parallel Earth, which has not produced them, and run them simultaneously, which one will come out on top? Unfair? Sure. But so are a lot of comparisons we read in this site and many others when GWTW was dragged into the discussion.

Mike, Star Wars isn't quite the box office king you allude to.

"Gone With The Wind" will always be the attendance king, and the record will likely never be broken.

200 million tickets were sold at a time when the U.S. population was only 125 mil.

Hi everybody and all haters of James Cameron,who is the King of making the movies ;) I don't like to read all the time about jealous people and haters of outstanding movie Avatar. Movie is great,i saw it 21 times already ;) Yes! 21 times,1 time regular and 20 times in 3D. And i will go see it again and again! I just love that movie very much.. But,i can't understand how you can compare now to the movie Gone with the wind,which was in 1939. At the time,they didn't have dvd's or Vhs. The movie was in theaters for years! Today,you have so much competition that any movie is on top for 2 weeks,as new releases coming out every thursday or friday... Was that back in 1939?????? I don't think so. I still remember Steven Spielberg movie E.T.,i saw it in 1985 and i saw it 9 times in 1 week time! Crazy,isn't it ;) That was back then and today,with another movie Avatar,takes me 21 times to see it from the first day of release,December 18,2009. I have all 20 glasses for 3D as a souvenire. Yeah,i am a big fan of Avatar and i would really like to shake hand to the best director in history-James Cameron! James Cameron for president ;) As well as Avatar ;)

Anyone who likes to talk about Avatar,you can contact me at: crazyavatar2009@hotmail.com

The success of "Avatar" is driven by technology, namely, really neat 3D graphics. James Cameron is selling spectacle. But technology will continue to improve, and it won't be long before Avatar's technology comes to seem hopelessly outdated. Then, Avatar will be all but forgotten, because spectacle is all this movie has going for it. The storyline is derivative and predictable, the acting is poor, and the writing is terrible. "Avatar" is the "Tron" of 2009-2010.

Remember, Titanic was in theaters for a LONG time, Avatar has only been out for two months.


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