Into the blue … Chinese moviegoers watch Avatar in a cinema in Hefei, in Anhui province. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images
In the end, the only man capable of defeating James Cameron was James Cameron. Titanic, the film-maker's epic 1997 romance set on the doomed ocean liner, yesterday lost its crown as the top grossing movie of all time to Avatar, an epic 3D romance set on an Earth-like moon orbiting a distant star.
The science-fiction saga almost overtook its predecessor's record of $1.843bn at the weekend, after six weeks topping box-office charts around the globe. Twentieth Century Fox confirmed yesterday that the record had finally been broken.
Many pundits had predicted Titanic's record would never be beaten. Yet, early in Avatar's run it was clear it was repeating the pattern of multiple repeat viewings that had been the making of Cameron's previous film. Avatar also benefited from the higher price of tickets for 3D screenings, which have accounted for more than 80% of US earnings and 65% of those elsewhere. The film was so successfully hyped as the first must-see stereoscopic experience that few wanted to compromise with a 2D viewing. In addition, its record-breaking success in China and Russia, markets harder to crack back in 1997, certainly helped to lift its bottom line.
Avatar's box-office victory was, however, won without adjustment for inflation. Figures that do so show how far it's eclipsed by the likes of 1939's Gone With the Wind – that film grossed $400m worldwide, which equates to at least $6bn in today's money, more than three times Avatar's figure.
# Production year: 2009
# Country: USA
# Cert (UK): 12A
# Runtime: 161 mins
# Directors: James Cameron
# Cast: CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Zoe Saldana