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It's a James Cameron world and we simply live in it

Posted December 29, 2009 at 4:42 PM CDT

By John Couture

Well, I'm sure by now you've heard that director James Cameron has this "little" movie called Avatar out in theaters. It's his first live-action feature length release since that other "little" movie of his Titanic.

And it seems that the two movies might be linked by more than simply having the same director. With this weekend's haul of $75.6 million, Avatar set the record for largest second weekend gross at the box office and with news that Monday's haul of $19 million eclipsing last week's Monday number of $16 million, it's clear that Avatar is gaining rather than losing steam.

But, does it have enough staying power to pull off the biggest upset of all-time, usurping Titanic as the highest grossing domestic release in history?

Some of you might recall back in 2006, we looked at the same thing when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest jumped out to the biggest opening week of all-time. Some people were talking about sinking Titanic then and were in for letdown when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest lost its steam quickly and ended up with $423 million and some change, good enough for 7th place all-time currently.

And then, last year everyone was ready to crown The Dark Knight the new box office king when it sped out to $238 million in its opening week smashing the record set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, but it too eventually sputtered out, falling about $68 million short of the $600 million milestone of Titanic.

And so, here we sit with Avatar and despite taking almost 11 days to pull in $232 million, people are starting to whisper about Cameron's other movie. But this time, they might really have something to talk about.

Sure, after 11 days The Dark Knight had taken in almost $100 million more than Avatar with a cumulative total of $324 million, but there are some interesting things to note when you look at trends. The Dark Knight's second Monday take fell by 57% over the previous Monday's haul, while Avatar's second Monday business grew by 18% over its first Monday's number.

The Dark Knight's total haul in the first two Mondays totaled $35 million while Avatar take on those two days was $36 million. Now, granted, the $100 million deficit is going to be hard to make up, but as I mentioned Avatar already bested The Dark Knight's second weekend record and out-hauled it by $9 million on the second Monday, so the trend favors Avatar.

So, it would appear that just like Titanic, Avatar is picking up speed as word of mouth and repeat viewings start to pick up. If you remember, Titanic didn't set the box office on fire at all in its first couple of weekends. Nope, it's nowhere to be found on largest 2nd or 3rd weekend lists, but it dominates the charts, having the largest 4th through 12th weekend of all time.

There are other factors that Avatar has going for it. Much like Titanic, it was released in late December when the competition is a little less stern on a week to week basis than it was for The Dark Knight's July release. With awards season upon us, it's quite possible that Avatar could maintain the top spot at the box office for the next month which would set it up to seriously challenge Titanic's record.

However, while Avatar is known for its advancements in special effects (much like Titanic), the one thing that Avatar doesn't have going for it is the teen girl repeat audience. With its sci-fi heavy plot and lack of a Leonardo Dicaprio-esque leading man, it's very likely that Avatar will fall just short of Titanic's number.

At the end of the day, I'm projecting that Avatar will surpass $500 million, but fall just short of The Dark Knight for third place all-time. What do you think Avatar's final number will be?

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