With weekend figures for his latest film adding up to a staggering $1.838 billion worldwide, this weekend’s expected $15 million US earnings allowed it to do what many thought was unthinkable and surpass his 1997 epic, which had a worldwide gross of $1.842 billion.
‘Titanic’ still remains the highest grosser domestically in the US with $600.8 million, but it only seems like a matter of time before Cameron’s latest film catches up after already earning $551.7 million as of Monday.
It is a remarkable achievement, as Titanic seemed a one off that would never be repeated, but the combination of multiple repeat viewings and the higher ticket prices for 3D screenings helped turn it into a tsunami of cash for 20th Century Fox.
Part of the key to its mainstream success lies in the fact that this is the first live action 3D film for a mass mainstream audience. Although 3D has become the norm at cinemas for animated films over the last 18 months, live action films such as The Final Destination were gimmicky and few and far between.
But Avatar was designed from the beginning as a spectacular and immersive 3D experience which would be shown on as many new digital screens as possible.
It was a calculated gamble for Fox and Cameron to push this technology on such a high profile film, which wasn’t an established property or sequel, but it has paid off handsomely.
Another aspect worth noting is how well it has done in markets such as China and Russia, which were harder to tap back in the late 1990s and this certainly helped its global box office numbers.
Why has it hit such a chord with audiences?
The combination of ground breaking visuals and a universal story line that fits neatly into many global cultures would appear to be the primary reasons but we should also bear in mind the Christmas box office, which features less competition than the summer.
Can it break the $2 billion barrier? At this point few would bet against it.