'Avatar' leads box office for fourth weekend
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Avatar" ruled the North American box office for a fourth weekend on Sunday, days after it soared up the worldwide rankings to become the second-biggest movie of all time.
James Cameron's 3-D sci-fi epic earned $48.5 million across the United States and Canada during the three-day period beginning Friday, distributor 20th Century Fox said.
Its total rose to $429.0 million, making it the seventh-biggest movie of all time in North America, before accounting for inflation. The last movie to enjoy four consecutive weekends at No. 1 was the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," in 2008.
Fox, a unit of News Corp, has said it expects "Avatar" to challenge "The Dark Knight" ($533 million) for the No. 2 slot in the North American record books. Cameron's "Titanic" holds the title with $601 million.
International moviegoers have driven the new film's success. As of Wednesday, they had chipped in $761 million, taking the film's worldwide total to $1.14 billion. "Avatar" passed the $1.12 billion tally of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" to become the second-highest worldwide release ever, trailing only "Titanic" with worldwide sales of $1.84 billion in 1997-1998. Fox will release updated international weekend sales data later on Sunday.
"Avatar" is the tale of a disabled ex-Marine sent from Earth to infiltrate a race of 10-foot (3-meter) 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.
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Sandra Maler)