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“Avatar” set to overtake “Titanic” in worldwide box office

Maybe it’s the dazzling 3D visuals. Maybe it’s the love story it tells. Maybe it’s the green message it seeks to expound. But whatever the reason, James Cameron’s mega-budget sci-fi yarn “Avatar” will soon pass his previous film “Titanic” as the global box office superstar of all time.

In only 39 days in theatrical release, “Avatar” has grossed $1.838 billion worldwide as of Sunday. “Titanic” earned $1.843 billion, but that figure could be surpassed as early as today (Monday). It should be noted that it took “Titanic” months to reach its historic box office summit and it remained No. 1 for 15 weeks.
Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst for Hollywood.com, said taking nothing away from “Avatar,” one should remember that ticket prices averaged about $4 when “Titanic” came out in the late 1990s. Today’s average ticket costs $7.46, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

“Avatar” also has the advantage of higher ticket prices for its 3D showings, which so far have accounted for 75 per cent of the tickets sold.

“I figure if the average price of a movie ticket today is $7.46, that the cost for 3D is $3 higher,” said Dergarabedian.

“Titanic” sold 120 million tickets domestically during its lifespan, he noted, while domestically, “Avatar” has sold about 60 million.

Despite all the qualifications, Degarabedian still believes “Avatar’s” box office numbers are a stunning achievement.

He pointed out that “Gone With the Wind”, adjusted for inflation, has earned $1.4 billion. “That’s huge, but ‘Gone With the Wind” has been re-issued a gazillion times in theaters over the years. In terms of the number of sheer eyeballs that have seen that film, that’s the king.”

To date, “Avatar” has grossed $551.7 million domestically. It should surpass “Titanic” ($600.8 million) by the middle of next week, Dergarabedian reasons.

Why has the world flocked to see “Avatar?”

“I think number one it’s the visuals,” Dergarabedian said. “I think it’s tantamount to when audiences first saw films like ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Fantasia,’ ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Star Wars’ for the pure visual impact. That works well with a global audience and transcends cultural and language barriers. It also has a green message, a love story, and a good vs. evil story line, but it’s framed in a visually stunning world and that’s really powerful.

“For today’s audiences to be blown away by anything is unprecedented because they’ve seen it all.”

Also, he said, don’t dismiss the fact that it’s a James Cameron film. “I think people know–if they don’t know his name, they know it’s from the same guy who directed “Titanic.”

How high will “Avatar” go? It’s too early to say if it will cross the $2 billion level, but you never know.

“I used to think you’d have to be insane to think a movie could make $2 billion worldwide,” he said. “But today it’s almost at $1.84 billion so you never know.”

Sony Pictures post-apocalyptic thriller “Legion,” from its genre label Screen Gems, opened to $18 million.

“Avatar” grossed an additional $107 million overseas, combined with $36 million in North America, bringing its worldwide total to $1.841 billion. It’s $2 million away from passing the $1.843-billion worldwide gross record set by “Titanic” in 1998.

The twelve estimated top producing motion pictures for the weekend, per data collected as of Sunday, January 24, 2010 include:

Rank- Title Distributor Gross – Cume

1. Avatar Fox $36,000,000 – $552,797,418

2. Legion Sony $18,200,000 – $18,200,000

3. The Book Of Eli Warner Bros. $17,000,000 – $62,003,223

4. Tooth Fairy Fox $14,500,000 – $14,500,000

5. The Lovely Bones Paramount $8,800,000 – $31,624,141

6. Sherlock Holmes Warner Bros. $7,115,000 – $191,563,783

7. Measures CBS Films $7,000,000 -$7,000,000

Alvin And The
Chipmunks: The
8. Squeakquel Fox $6,500,000 – $204,236,844

9. It’s Complicated Universal $6,189,690 – $98,649,750

10. The Spy Next Door Lionsgate $4,750,000 – $18,710,115

11. The Blind Side Warner Bros. $4,515,000 – $234,027,266

12. Up In The Air Paramount $4,333,000 – $69,676,526

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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  • January 24, 2010 | Permalink |

    Great AVATAR leads, its a masterpiece! unlike this classless and disturbing movie LEGION, or this boring violent movie ELI. Filmmakers please note that gory violence or a black cast will never make a huge box office.

  • January 26, 2010 | Permalink |

    I like the film so much, wonderful

  • February 5, 2010 | Permalink |

    Don’s no saint. But, after spending some time with him one-on-one, with him and his wife, and both of them with me and my wife.

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