'Avatar' opens new dimension for profits with $745m box office record

Director James Cameron on course to break the $1bn barrier for the second time

At first glance it appears to have the makings more of a low-budget sci-fi flick than of a box-office blockbuster. But Avatar, a film about a mythical planet inhabited by huge blue aliens, is set to become one of the the most successful movies of all time.

In less than two weeks, the ground-breaking 3D film has grossed $745m (£460m) and is already expected to be the most successful movie of 2009-10, overtaking even the latest Harry Potter film. And on New Year's Eve it was given the presidential seal of approval when the Obama family ventured into a shopping mall in Hawaii to watch the movie.

Should it continue its money-making progress at its current rate, the film could become just the fifth in history to gross more than $1bn. The biggest money-spinning movie of all time is Titanic, which made $1.8bn.

Breaking the $1bn barrier would be a particularly remarkable achievement for James Cameron, Avatar's director, seeing as he also directed Titanic. He would be the first film director to gross $1bn twice.

The film's success is, according to industry experts, a payout on a substantial gamble taken by 20th Century Fox. Despite a budget of $237m, the majority did not go on paying the wage bill – the most recognisable film star is Sigourney Weaver and others are relative unknowns. Instead, much of the money was spent developing the technology which would allow the film to be shot in 3D.

Charles Gant, the film editor of Heat magazine, explained: "This film really was a huge risk by 20th Century Fox. They took a movie that has no real stars and one with an ostensibly limited appeal. Sci-fi is typically a geeky genre so for them to make such a success out of a film that is about big blue aliens is very impressive."

The film is set on the fictional planet of Pandora, a mineral-rich world which is being plundered by humans. It tells the story of Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine who decides to take his brother's place on a mission to the distant planet, 4.4 light years from Earth. But Sully becomes engaged in battle when he learns of a plan to eliminate the planet's natives in order to mine for the precious minerals.

In its opening weekend just before Christmas, the film grossed $77m in the USA and Canada, £8.5m in the UK and an estimated $232m worldwide. Here it grossed £18m in its first 10 days and when the final figures for last year are calculated, it could very well top Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which took a total of £50m, as the top-grossing movie released in 2009. As well as its box-office appeal, the film has also won praise from a host of celebrities.

Before its release Ben Stiller, who currently has no films of his own to promote, went on the Tonight Show in the US apparently with the sole intention of sharing his excitement about Avatar. He told host Conan O'Brien: "I'm really excited about it. It's just going to be an amazing movie". And after seeing it, Simon Pegg wrote on his Twitter site: "The movie is a game changer. Still buzzing."

Despite only a handful of films ever achieving it, the suggestion that Avatar could break $1bn is not necessarily a fanciful one. It needs to gross another $250m but it has a number of factors on its side.

Mr Gant added: "It has been released at a particularly clever time. Going into January and February is what is known as the awards corridor. If it wins any of the big Oscars in March, it will create the possibility that a lot of people will go to see it who otherwise would not have.

"Also with it being in 3D, a lot of people are finding it sold out and, rather than watching it in traditional D, they are coming back to see it in 3D. It means that the film's longevity automatically increases.

"I don't think it will beat Titanic, but I'd expect it to break the magical $1bn barrier."

The biggest films of all-time

1 Titanic (1997) $1.84bn

2 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) $1.13bn

3 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) $1.06bn

4 The Dark Knight (2008) $1bn

5 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) $969m

Source: IMDB

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower