'Avatar' rules box office, eyes 'Titanic' record

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The Independent Culture

Science-fiction epic "Avatar" surged past the 500-million-dollar mark at the North American box office this weekend, maintaining its push towards an all-time record, final figures showed Tuesday.

Director James Cameron's groundbreaking 3-D spectacular added to its haul over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend with another 54.4 million dollars, box office tracker Exhibitor Relations said.

The movie has raked in more than 1.6 billion dollars worldwide since its release and is on course to overtake Cameron's 1997 Oscar-winner "Titanic," which remains the highest-grossing film of all time with 1.8 billion dollars.

In North America "Avatar" has earned 504.9 million dollars in only 32 days, and now stands third behind 2008 Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" (533.3 million dollars) and "Titanic" (600.8 million).

"The records are starting to look inevitable now - Cameron will end up sinking his own ship," quipped Exhibitor Relations chief analyst Jeff Bock in reference to "Avatar's" pursuit of "Titanic."

"The box office numbers have moved beyond the usual demographics. People who would never normally go to see a science fiction film or a film in 3-D are going to see 'Avatar' because they want to be part of the conversation.

"And it is also attracting repeat business - people going to see it two, three, four or five times. That is extremely unusual for a film released outside the summer season."

This weekend's stellar performance came as "Avatar" celebrated its best drama and best director accolades at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, confirming the film's status as an Oscars front-runner.

The enduring appeal of "Avatar" proved too much for Denzel Washington vehicle "Book of Eli", an action movie set in a post-apocalyptic world which debuted with a respectable 38.4 million dollars.

In third place was "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson's latest film, "The Lovely Bones", an adaptation of Alice Sebold's acclaimed 2002 novel about a murdered schoolgirl who helps her family catch the man who killed her from the afterlife. The film, starring Irish actress Saoirse Ronan and Susan Sarandon, picked up 19.9 million dollars in its first weekend on wide release.

In fourth was family film "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," which added another 15.3 million dollars to its four-week haul of 196.4 million.

Hong Kong film legend Jackie Chan weighed in at fifth place with his slapstick comedy "The Spy Next Door", which took 13 million dollars.

Sixth place was occupied by "Sherlock Holmes" with 12 million dollars.

Director Guy Ritchie's high-octane take on the adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary London detective, played by Robert Downey Junior, has taken 182.2 million dollars in four weeks.

Love triangle comedy "It's Complicated," starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, dropped to seventh, taking 9.6 million dollars.

Falling two spots to eighth was "Leap Year," a romantic comedy starring Amy Adams and Adam Scott, which took 7.0 million.

Ninth belonged to "The Blind Side", about a white couple who give an illiterate black teen a home and a new lease on life, earning 6.9 million dollars.

"Up in the Air," starring George Clooney in the acclaimed story of a corporate downsizer who questions his role in life, rounded out the top 10 with 6.5 million dollars.