The new year began at the movies the way the old one ended: with James Cameron ruling the box office.
The director’s sci-fi opus Avatar remained on top for the third straight weekend, raking in $68.3 million, according to studio estimates from Nielsen EDI.
The $300 million film distributed by 20th Century Fox has crossed the $1 billion mark, earning $352.1 million domestically and $670.2 million overseas.
The question now is how high Avatar flies. The picture dropped a minuscule 9% from last weekend and still won the box-office derby by $30 million.
The movie is tracking similarly to Cameron’s last film, Titanic, which was No. 1 for 16 straight weeks and became the highest-grossing film of all time, domestically, at $600 million.
And though few people expect Cameron’s new film to eclipse his old — movie schedules are typically too full now to see a movie at No. 1 for more than a month —Avatar already is marching its way into the record books. It propelled Christmas weekend to its highest grosses on record, and last week the film became the third-fastest film to hit $300 million, behind only The Dark Knight and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.