This weekend, Avatar became only the fifth movie ever to reach $1 billion in worldwide receipts. It reached the $300 million mark on its 15th day. James Cameron’s previous film, Titanic, which also holds the record as the highest grossing film of all time (in unadjusted dollars), took 44 days to get to the same point.
Wow. That’s impressive, even in my opinion, and I always thought Avatar was going to break $1 billion. I didn’t know it would make that much that fast. There are a few reasons behind this. Firstly, we have to get out of the way a few things. Firstly, movie ticket prices have gone up. That’s bound to happen over a 12 year period. Secondly, Avatar is being widely screened in 3D. Those ticket prices are higher. And thirdly, it’s also being heavily screened in IMAX theaters, and those prices are even higher. I paid $16 for a ticket to see Avatar in IMAX 3D. At the local theater in Red Hook, New York, near my school, I like to go to their matinees, which are $4. $4 versus $16. It’s a huge difference.
That’s the point, though, isn’t it? People are willing to pay higher ticket prices to go see the movie in 3D and in IMAX when they’re able to. We’ve already known that to be the case, though. That’s one (major) reason why 3D is being warmly embraced by studios: higher ticket prices people are willing to pay equals more money in their pockets. This is no secret. What I think is a pleasant surprise is how huge the droves are to go see Avatar, despite its (normally) higher ticket prices. It’s also important to mention the fact that Avatar is 2:40 in length, so it can’t be screened as much as theaters normally like to screen movies.
When I went to see it, it was opening weekend. I don’t know how many experienced it or paid attention to it on the news, but that was the weekend of the ravaging snow storms across the northeast. I was in (relatively) upstate New York, and the first showing, at 3:00pm was sold out, as was the showing I went to, at 7:00pm. I had luckily had the foresight to purchase my tickets a week in advance. Those snowstorms didn’t stop the movie from grossing a huge $77 million its opening weekend.
What I’m getting to with all of this rambling is that Avatar could and most likely will, become one of the top three, and perhaps top two grossing films of all time. As I said, it only took 15 days for Avatar to break $300 million domestically. If we look to the last film to even come close to matching Titanic, The Dark Knight, at the 17-day mark, where we are now, The Dark Knight had grossed $393.7 million. Avatar is currently at $352.1 million. It honestly would not surprise me at this point if Avatar exceeded The Dark Knight in overall grosses. The Dark Knight had a much higher opening weekend than Avatar, which was, as I mentioned, hampered by the weather. Its total box office drop from its first to second weekend was only a 1.8% drop. It also only added 4 theaters to its overall tally. Estimates for this weekend, its third, put it at making $68.3 million, which would be only a 9.7% drop in sales over its second weekend. The Dark Knight, by contrast, dropped a staggering 52.5% in its second weekend, and then 43.2% in its third. What that shows is that Avatar has huge lasting power.
It will, of course, taper out after a while. But it seems to me that even people who have seen the movie are going back to see it again. I will be before I go back to school. Wouldn’t it be something, though, if the top two grossing films of all time were directed by the same guy, James Cameron? He must have the magic touch.