It’s a luxury problem for James Cameron, who directed both films and is on the verge of boasting three of the top four grossing films of all time, not adjusted for inflation.
Sometime on Friday, James Cameron’s big-budget spectacle will overtake the $2.071 billion grossed globally by Star Wars: The Force Awakens to rank No. 4 on the list of history’s top performers at the worldwide box office, not adjusted for inflation.
The next milestone: sailing past Cameron’s Titanic, which has amassed $2.194 billion in worldwide ticket sales, including rereleases.
Box office insiders are now confident that The Way of Water will ultimately overtake Titanic with a worldwide tally of $2.25 billion to $2.3 billion. One determining factor will be China, where Cameron has a huge following. The Way of Water has earned north of $230 million in the Middle Kingdom to date, the highest showing of the pandemic era. And the film will again expand its screen count after losing screens last weekend to local-language films because of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Disney, home of 20th Century, is being cautious in regard to giving any projections as to The Way of Water and Titanic.
For Cameron, these are luxury problems. Once The Way of Water passes up Lucasfilm’s Force Awakens, the filmmaker will lay claim to three of the four top-grossing films of all time, in a remarkable feat.
The all-time list is topped by Cameron’s original Avatar ($2.92 billion), followed by the Russo brothers’ Avengers: Endgame ($2.79 billion), according to Comscore. Titanic is presently No 3. The Way of Water isn’t expected to catch up with Marvel’s Endgame or the first Avatar, released in 2009.
Similar to Cameron, Disney — also home of Marvel and Lucasfilm, among other brands — dominates the upper reaches of the all-time grossing chart. Already, The Way of Water is only the sixth film in history to have crossed the $2 billion mark globally, and currently ranks No. 4 on the list of top international earners with more than $1.458 billion in ticket sales. Domestically, its earnings through Thursday were $605 million, which puts it at No. 13 on the roster of top-performing films.
One fun twist: On Feb. 11, Paramount and 20th Century are rereleasing a remastered 3D version of Titanic in time for Valentine’s Day. The global reissue could whip up another $30 million to $40 million, which would increase the movie’s worldwide cume to $2.224 billion to $2.234 billion.
But again, analysts and insiders expect The Way of Water to scuttle Titanic. And from the perspective of Cameron and his longtime producing partner Jon Landau, The Way of Water is a priority, since it is part of an ongoing franchise, with more movies in the works. Best picture winner Titanic, released in 1997 and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, was a single shot across the bow (albeit a very loud one).