It seems inevitable that movies about odd aliens, supernatural events, and bizarre figments of writers’ imaginations rise weightlessly to the top of box office receipt lists. “Avatar” became the No.2 grossing film of all time as it moved above various versions of “Star Wars”, “Harry Potter”, “Lord of the Rings”, and “Jurassic Park.” “Titanic”, still the top grossing film ever, is the only movie related to a historical event among the 47 movies on the highest grossing list. “The Passion of the Christ”, at No. 48 barely qualifies as fact, and then only among Christians.
“Avatar”, made by director James Cameron, who also made “Titanic”, reached $1.335 in global sales. The “Titanic” record is $1.843 billion and “Avatar” appears to be on a pace to surpass it.
The success of “Avatar” makes improbable twins out of director of Cameron and Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp (NYSE:NWS), which owns “Avatar’s” distributor Twentieth Century Fox. The income from the movie should contribute substantially to News Corp’s earnings for both the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2010.
Hollywood may have turned briefly to small films with small budgets in the hopes that a studio could make a dozen moderately profitable gems a year. The recent success of “Avatar”, “The Dark Knight”, and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” will almost certainly change that. It is time for the movie business to swing for the fences again.
Douglas A. McIntyre