You have to figure that director James Cameron is feeling pretty good about himself right now. Oh sure, on the one hand it must suck to see a twelve-year record that you set broken - 1997's Titanic is now no longer the highest-grossing film of all time. On the other hand, when it was one of your own films that broke the record, you really don't have much room to complain, now do you?
Yes folks, it's official: After only 40 days in theaters, James Cameron's Avatar has surpassed James Cameron's Titanic as the highest-grossing film of all time - of all time! (Please stop doing that, Kanye.) 20th Century Fox puts Titanic's worldwide tally at a staggering $1,843,201,268, but even that impressive number wasn't enough to hold up to Avatar's $551 million at the domestic box office, and $1.3 billion at theaters around the world outside of the States.
Titanic still holds the domestic box office record by just under $49 million, but the sci-fi/fantasy epic will likely pass the disaster/romance film's high-water mark of $600.8 million before it leaves theaters. Given that this marks the sixth straight weekend that the film has grossed over $100 million at international box offices, it's likely that the final total for Avatar is going to be much, much higher. And it won't even need China's help going forward, either. Wowza.
This is, of course, not without caveats: Unlike Avatar, Titanic was never shown on more-expensive IMAX screens, and is still winning on the number of tickets sold. Furthermore, these numbers are completely unadjusted for inflation - if we take currency differences into account, Avatar is only #26 on the top-grossing films of all time, while Titanic is up at #6. Adjusted for inflation, the number one film is still Gone With the Wind.
But that shouldn't take away from the accomplishment too much. As we say in the biz, Mr. Cameron - "Grats."