King of the World!
Last Monday I wondered if James Cameron's “Avatar,” already at $615 million worldwide, would eventually surpass “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” at $1.1 billion worldwide, to become the second-highest-grossing film (unadjusted) of all time—after Cameron's “Titanic,” which is no. 1 by a mile with $1.8 billion.
That question hasn't been answered but it has. Because after today “Avatar”'s worldwide b.o. is estimated at $1.01 billion: fourth all-time and spitting distance to “Lord of the Rings.” So by Wednesday or Thursday, James Cameron will officially have the two highest-grossing movies of all time.
Meanwhile in the U.S. “Avatar” is already at $350 million and will shortly blow past “Transformers 2” ($402 million) to become the no. 1 movie of the year. The only question is if it can surpass “The Dark Knight” ($532 million) to become the no. 1 movie of the decade. If it does, Cameron will have had the no. 1 movie of the decade two decades in a row. No director has ever done that. Not even Spielberg, though he came close (“Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Jurassic”).
Hollywood tends to place its bets on opening weekends but Cameron's showing everyone how short-sighted this is. “Avatar” made $77 million opening weekend. That's 28th all-time and fifth best for the year—behind “New Moon,” “Transformers,” “Wolverine” and “Harry Potter.” But such films tend to drop like rocks (40-60 percent) that second weekend. “Avatar”? It dropped two percent, to $75 million, giving it the best second weekend of all time. Unadjusted.
The best third weekend? “Spider-Man” at $45 million. Whoops. Scratch that. Now it's “Avatar” at $68 million.
And from here on in Cameron's just competing with himself. The record-holder for best fourth weekend is “Titanic” at $28 million. Fifth weekend? “Titanic.” Sixth? Same. All the way through the 12th weekend. It's all “Titanic.”
Which means weekends 2 through 12 are now all Cameron.
Cameron, by himself, is rewriting the lessons of Hollywood, and the biggest one is this: Opening weekend is for pikers.