Avatar sped past the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office after three weekends in release, making it the fourth-biggest movie of all time, according to data released on Sunday.

James Cameron's 3-D sci-fi epic earned $1.02 billion, powered by sales of $202 million during the New Year holiday weekend, distributor 20th Century Fox said.

The only movies ahead of it are Cameron's Titanic ($1.8 billion), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1.12 billion), and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($1.07 billion).

North American moviegoers chipped in $68.3 million, setting a record for a film in its third weekend. The old mark of $45 million was set by Spider-Man in 2002.

After 17 days in cinemas across the United States and Canada, Avatar has earned $352.1 million, placing it at No. 15 among all movies in terms of ticket sales.

Fox, a unit of News Corp., forecast the film would end up in the $500 million range in the North American market.

Cameron's 1997 drama Titanic, the biggest film of all time before accounting for inflation, earned $601 million, followed by 2008's The Dark Knight with $533 million. Star Wars currently holds the No. 3 berth with $461 million.

This is like a freight train out of control, said Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston. It just keeps on going.

Even Titanic could be threatened. When ticket-price inflation is included, that film had earned $241 million after 17 days, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo.


The international total for Avatar stands at $670.2 million. The film is playing virtually everywhere. It opened in China on Saturday, and will reach Italy -- its final market -- on January 15.

Avatar is the tale of a disabled ex-Marine sent from Earth to infiltrate a race of 10-foot blue aliens and persuade them to let his employer mine their homeland for natural resources. It was reportedly the most expensive film ever made, with a budget of at least $300 million.

In the absence of any major new releases, the rankings of the rest of the films in the North American top 10 were largely unchanged from the previous week.

Sherlock Holmes was No. 2 with $38.4 million, taking the 10-day total for the Robert Downey Jr. action-adventure to $140.7 million. It was released by Warner Bros. Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc.

Fox's family offering Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel followed at No. 3 with $36.6 million, and a 12-day total of $157.3 million.

The Universal Pictures comedy It's Complicated held steady at No. 4 in its second weekend with $18.7 million. The film, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, has earned $59.1 million. Universal is a unit of General Electric Co.

The Sandra Bullock smash The Blind Side was No. 5 with $12.7 million. Warner Bros.' football-themed drama has earned $209.1 million after seven weekends.