This Week In History: Avatar Smashes Box Office Records

December 18, 2009: James Cameron breaks his own box office record with the release of his epic sci-fi film, Avatar.

James Cameron’s Avatar was released in 2009, but its origins date back to 1994 when the director and deep-sea enthusiast wrote an 80-page treatment for the film. Avatar was initially going to start production right after Cameron’s previous blockbuster Titanic had finished, but according to Cameron, the necessary technology required to achieve his vision was not yet available.

The film made extensive use of brand new motion capture technology that was able to more effectively map the actors’ expressive facial movements. The officially reported budget for the film was listed at $237 million, but best estimates of the actual budget come in even higher. The visual effects team alone employed up to nine-hundred artists.

The film was a massive draw, earning praise for its groundbreaking use of 3D and awe-inspiring visual effects. It quickly became a “must-see” theatrical event, drawing massive crowds to theatres around the world. During its run in theatres, Avatar broke several box office records and became the highest-grossing film of all time. That achievement was previously held by Cameron’s Titanic, which held on to the record for twelve years. Avatar also became the first film to gross over $2 billion.

The success of the film lead to Cameron signing with 20th Century Fox to produce four sequels. Avatar 2 and 3 are currently in production and have completed principal photography.