The question is no longer whether or not James Cameron's "Avatar" will earn back its production budget, as the film's recent ascension past the $1 billion worldwide threshold addressed that factor rather decisively. Instead, the question has become whether or not Cameron will top himself.
For more than a decade now, "Titanic" has comfortably held the distinction of being the highest grossing feature film of all time, both domestic and worldwide. But in case you haven't noticed, there's a not-so-little iceberg called Pandora, filled with Na'vi and other dangerous indigenous creatures, heading straight for Cameron's previously established "Titanic" — and judging by the box office numbers, it's entirely possible that "Avatar" could sink the boat.
"Titanic" earned its status as the king of the cinematic world over the course of several weeks, having only earned $28.6 million in its first weekend in theaters. That number steadily rose to a cumulative of $88.4 in its second week, then $157.4 in its third, and so on with continued fervor. The movie managed the impressive feat of staying in first place all the way from its December opening to April, totaling $600.8 million domestically and $1.2 billion in foreign theaters for a worldwide total of $1.8 billion.
"Avatar," on the other hand, came into theaters hot. It decisively won its opening weekend with a $77 million finish, dropping by a mere 1.8% in its second weekend for $75.6 million, and finishing out this past weekend with $68.3 million. In just three weeks, "Avatar" has earned $352.1 million domestically and a worldwide total of $1.02 billion.
As strong as "Avatar" is in America, it's even more powerful overseas. The global market has already shown its support for Cameron's latest with $666.7 million in ticket sales. Comparatively, "Titanic" left the box office with an impressive $1.2 billion, but that's not exactly an insurmountable number given the short run that "Avatar" has experienced thus far.
There is also the issue of continuing new releases. When "Avatar" bested "Sherlock Holmes" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" two weeks ago, it was all but guaranteed that the science fiction epic would win again just one week later thanks to a complete lack of new wide releases. While that's no longer the case this coming weekend, the continued support and steady balance of "Avatar" should pave the way for a fourth straight weekend victory over the likes of "Daybreakers," "Youth in Revolt" and "Leap Year."
Another element to consider is how badly the lack of a holiday weekend will effect "Avatar," but considering that the film premiered just fine without the support of Christmas or New Year's, I wouldn't expect the average weekend to slow the movie's progress too dramatically.
Ultimately, whether or not "Avatar" can triumph over "Titanic" will depend on Cameron's latest maintaining its stride. If the film can continue to push past the competition in the number one slot with minor drop offs, "Avatar" should easily claim the title of the highest grossing film of all time.
But if that doesn't happen, it's a virtual certainty that James Cameron will still have the two most successful movies of all time under his belt when "Avatar" settles in at number two. At the end of the day, that's a badge of honor that anyone would be proud to wear.
Can "Avatar" outmatch "Titanic" at the box office, or do you think the ship will sink? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!