'Avatar' breaks 'Titanic' worldwide record

Sci-fi epic hits $1.292 billion over the weekend

"Avatar" is the winner and new worldwide boxoffice champion.

After six rounds on the foreign circuit, "Avatar" is now the biggest-grossing film of all time, as earlier predicted.

Distributor 20th Century Fox said the James Cameron mega-budget blockbuster's worldwide cume -- excluding Puerto Rico -- was through the weekend just $2 million shy of "Titanic's" global boxoffice record of $1.843 billion. (Boxoffice in Puerto Rico, although generated offshore, is considered by Fox as part of its domestic total.)

The distributor confirmed that "Titanic's" historic benchmark fell as of early Monday.

"Avatar" rolled up an overseas cume through Sunday of $1.292 billion, exceeding by $50.1 million "Titanic's" 13-year international boxoffice record of $1.242 billion. The foreign record actually fell Saturday, as earlier predicted.

Avatar's domestic cume through the weekend stood at $551.7 million, still $49 million shy of "Titanic's" record $600.8 million.

The latest No. 1 weekend overseas tally was $108.3 million grossed from 11,925 screens in 111 markets. It was the sixth consecutive weekend that "Avatar" grossed more than $100 million on the foreign circuit.

Among the key territories on the weekend were: France (cume $124.8 million), Germany ($95.8 million), the U.K. ($93.2 million), South Korea ($79.7 million), Japan ($77.7 million), Australia ($77 million) and Spain ($76 million). "Avatar" is now the biggest-grossing film of all time in China, Spain, Russia, Hong Kong and Chile. It is the biggest Hollywood film ever to play in India.

The latest gross numbers underscore yet again the importance of the foreign circuit playoff to "Avatar's" success. Nearly 70% of the film's worldwide revenues come from overseas. That's about the same as the 67% slice of "Titanic's" worldwide total gross that originated abroad.

Peculiar to "Avatar's" success is the latest wave of exhibition technology. At least 65% of its overseas boxoffice and nearly 80% of its domestic earnings derive from 3D venues, which charge the equivalent of several dollars more than conventional theatrical sites. Imax locations worldwide playing "Avatar" have rolled up $134 million in 38 days at ticket prices at about $15 each.

Big contributors to "Avatar's" foreign success are China and Russia, two key territories that were not significant boxoffice factors when "Titanic" played overseas. On the weekend, "Avatar" secured $12.5 million in China, boosting the market cume to $103 million. In Russia, the weekend tally was $4.8 million for a market cume of $96.3 million.

Then there is the inflation factor. According to a formula developed by the department of U.S. Labor Statistics, "Titanic's" 1997 worldwide gross is worth at least $2.5 billion on an inflation adjusted basis, or $805 million domestic and $1.664 billion foreign.

Still champ in total gross numbers adjusted for inflation in general is "Gone With the Wind," which since its initial release in 1939 and over several reissues has grossed more than $400 million worldwide. On an inflation adjusted basis it's estimated that GWTW's gross dollar figure is the equivalent in today's dollars of several billion.

Otherwise, the weekend lineup of the top five films overseas remained constant. Warner Bros.' "Sherlock Holmes," from director Guy Ritchie, stayed at No. 2 with $17.2 million from 4,758 screens in 58 markets for a cume of $197 million. In third place was Fox's family-oriented "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which garnered $11.6 million from 4,776 screens in 60 markets for a foreign cume of $175.2 million.

Thanks to openings in 17 territories, Paramount's "Up in the Air," director Jason Reitman's comedy-drama starring George Clooney, emerged at No. 4 with $11.2 million derived from 2,039 spots in 23 markets for an early cume of $19.7 million. Fifth was "It's Complicated," Universal's romantic comedy with Meryl Streep, which bagged $10.4 million from 2,569 situations in 32 territories for a cume of $50.9 million.

"Tooth Fairy," Fox's comic fantasy starring Dwayne Johnson, scored $7.6 million from 1,808 screens in 16 markets in its second weekend overseas for a cume of $16.2 million. Warner's "Invictus," from director Clint Eastwood, drew $7.6 million from 1,122 screens in 11 markets for a cume of $17.7 million.

Sony's "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" co-starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker earned $5.7 million from 2,205 screens in 29 territories for a cume of $31 million.

"Legion," director Scott Stewart's action fantasy with Dennis Quaid, which opened at No. 2 domestically, opened via Sony in Malaysia and Singapore, where the Screen Gems production ranked No. 1, and in the Philippines, where it debuted at No. 2. Total weekend gross was $1.1 million from 150 screens.

Summit International's "The Book of Eli," the postapocalyptic drama Starring Denzel Washington, drew an estimated $4.7 million from 1,340 screens in eight markets for a very early cume of $10.4 million. A No. 4 opening in France bagged $2.1 million from 378 sites.

Fittingly premiering at No. 9 in Australia was Sony's release of the Weinstein Co.'s "Nine," director Rob Marshall's musical adaptation of Fellini's "8 1/2." Opening tally was $705,360 from 133 screens. "Nine's" foreign cume so far from all distributors stands at $13.4 million since opening overseas Dec. 18.

Disney's "The Princess and the Frog" pushed its overseas cume to $67.2 million thanks to a $3.1 million weekend from 2,725 locations in 28 territories.

In France, "Serge Gainsbourg, vie heroique" (Serge Gainsbourg, Heroique Life), Universal's release of a local co-production of Focus Features International, opened at No. 3 in the market with an estimated $3.9 million derived from 499 locations. Director Joann Sfar's biopic of French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg attained recent notoriety after lead actress Lucy Gordon, a 28-year-old former British model, committed suicide in her Paris flat.

In its second weekend in Germany and Austria, Sony's "Friendship!" drew a combined $3.1 million from 474 screens for a two-market cume of $7.7 million. Director Markus Goller's local-language title (produced by Deutsche Columbia Pictures) is a drama about a young East German man searching the U.S. for his missing father.

Studio Canal opened "A Serious Man" in France at 133 situations for a weekend tally of $1.2 million. The Focus Features/Universal release has a foreign cume to $12.7 million to date. In Japan, Gaga opened "Oceans," director Jacques Perrin's ecological docu-drama, at a market No. 2 with $3.8 million derived from 302 screens.

Other international cumes: the Weinstein Co./Universal's "Inglourious Basterds," $199.8 million; Disney's "Surrogates," $78 million (thanks to a $3.4 million weekend at 500 screens in five markets); Fox's "(500) Days of Summer," $27.2 million; Universal's "Couples Retreat," $57 million; Disney's "Old Dogs," $36.7 million; Universal's "Black Lightning," $21 million; Sony's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," $89.4 million; and DreamWorks/Paramount's "The Lovely Bones," $7.6 million (from Australia and New Zealand over five frames).

Also, Universal's "Public Enemies," $118 million; UGC Distribution's "Une petite zone de turbulences," $3.5 million (over two frames in France only); Universal's "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant," $14.6 million; EuropaCorp.'s "Le Siffleur" (The Whistler), $3.6 million (three rounds in France only); Paramount's "Celda 221," $15.9 million (over 12 rounds in Spain only); Focus Features' "Love Happens," $10.2 million; and Paramount's "Law Abiding Citizen," $10.4 million.

And, Paramount's "An Education," $2.1 million; Sony's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," $89.5 million; Focus Features/Universal's "9," $16.3 million; Sony's "Zombieland," $25.5 million; Paramount's "Case 39," $11.9 million; Pixar/Disney's "Up," $436.1 million; "Michael Jackson's This Is It," $188.7 million; Paramount's "Imagine That," $6.9 million; and Warner Bros.' "Io Loro e Lara" (It, They and Lara), $21.3 million (in Italy only).