Avatar has sped past the $US1 billion mark at the worldwide box office after three weekends in release, making it the fourth biggest movie of all time.
According to distributor 20th Century Fox, James Cameron’s 3D sci-fi epic has earned US$1.02 billion, powered by sales of US$202 million during the New Year holiday weekend.
The only movies ahead of it are Cameron’s Titanic (US$1.8 billion), The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (US$1.12 billion) and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (US$1.07 billion).
After 17 days in cinemas across the US and Canada, Avatar has earned US$352.1 million, placing it at number 15 among all movies in terms of ticket sales.
Fox forecasts the film will end up in the US$500 million range in the North American market.
Cameron’s 1997 drama Titanic – the biggest film of all time before accounting for inflation – earned US$601 million, followed by 2008’s The Dark Knight with US$533 million.
Star Wars holds the number three berth with US$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 just US$241 million after 17 days, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.
The non-North American total for Avatar stands at US$670.2 million.
The film is playing virtually everywhere and will reach Italy – its final market – on January 15.
Avatar is the tale of a disabled ex-Marine (Australian actor Sam Worthington) sent from Earth to infiltrate a race of blue aliens and persuade them to let his employer mine their homeland for natural resources.
It was reportedly the most expensive film ever made, with a budget of at least US$300 million.