"Avatar" passes $1 billion at world box office

Sun Jan 3, 2010 1:37pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Avatar" sped past the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office after three weekends in release, making it the fourth-biggest movie of all time, according to data released on Sunday.

James Cameron's 3-D sci-fi epic earned $1.02 billion, powered by sales of $202 million during the New Year holiday weekend, distributor 20th Century Fox said.

The only movies ahead of it are Cameron's "Titanic" ($1.8 billion), "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" ($1.12 billion), and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" ($1.07 billion).

North American moviegoers chipped in $68.3 million, setting a record for a film in its third weekend. The old mark of $45 million was set by "Spider-Man" in 2002.

After 17 days in cinemas across the United States and Canada, "Avatar" has earned $352.1 million, placing it at No. 15 among all movies in terms of ticket sales.

Fox, a unit of News Corp., forecast the film would end up in the $500 million range in the North American market.

Cameron's 1997 drama "Titanic," the biggest film of all time before accounting for inflation, earned $601 million, followed by 2008's "The Dark Knight" with $533 million. "Star Wars" currently holds the No. 3 berth with $461 million.

"This is like a freight train out of control," said Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston. "It just keeps on going."

Even "Titanic" could be threatened. When ticket-price inflation is included, that film had earned $241 million after 17 days, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.   Continued...