Less than a month after its release, James Cameron's sci-fi epic "Avatar" continues to break box-office records. The film has earned in excess of $350 million in the United States alone, with worldwide figures tallying up at more than $1 billion in ticket sales. With numbers like these, it's hard to ignore the looming records — set by Cameron himself — that have yet to be broken. "Titanic" holds the all-time box-office record for both domestic and worldwide sales, at roughly $600 million and $1.8 billion, respectively.
The success of "Avatar" has many people speculating that Cameron's decade-old records are his own to smash. Jeff Bock, box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, certainly acknowledges the possibility.
"I think the worldwide number of $1.8 billion [for 'Titanic'] is definitely reachable. The worldwide has been so strong," he told us. "If the 3-D does what it's supposed to do — keep people in seats longer and extend the playability [of the film] — then it definitely does have a real chance at [breaking those records]."
Looking at the figures as "Avatar" moved from week one to week two, we see a drop of less than 5 percent in overall ticket sales, from $77 million to $75.6 million. The shift from week two to week three was a bit more dramatic, shedding less than 10 percent to finish out the weekend with $68.3 million. Part of that success can be credited to the end of the year and the time off for the working world that comes with it.
"A lot is going to depend on this next weekend, since we're not talking about a holiday weekend, finally," Bock explained. "If we do experience another drop of, say, 10, 20 percent, then yes, we may be looking at that 'Titanic' number finally crumbling. But if we see a drop of 40, 45 percent, then no, it probably won't make it."
That's just considering the worldwide box-office record. Domestically, "Avatar" seemingly has a higher hill to climb. That figure of $350 million puts Cameron's latest at the #15 spot on the all-time list. It's more than halfway to the $600 million "Titanic" number, but there are a lot of challengers between "Avatar" and the #1 spot. Or so it seems.
"The fact is, by the end of next weekend, 'Avatar' is going to be in the top 10 already. And from there, it's just gonna chew all those up," Bock said. "It's gonna top 'The Dark Knight.' No doubt about it."
The biggest obstacle that remains is the price of admission. One could argue that the premium a majority of viewers are paying for 3-D or IMAX presentations of "Avatar" has served to inflate the box-office value of the movie. The flipside argument, of course, is that the high cost of entry discourages viewers from repeat viewings.
That argument doesn't stand up as well when you consider exactly what "Avatar" offers in exchange for those extra admission dollars. "It is a spectacle that you're not gonna get anywhere else," Bock said. "I think that's the difference right now: There's no other film out there like 'Avatar.' "
Check out everything we've got on "Avatar."
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