James Cameron's Avatar
Today, it was announced that hit video game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 had made over $1 billion in worldwide sales since its release in November, 2009. With this and James Cameron's Avatar both generating over a billion dollars worldwide, it shows the enormous draw of two separate entertainment platforms that, in recent years, have been fighting over their target demographic.
In October 2007, the release of Halo 3 gave Hollywood honchos a reason to be concerned. The third installment of the popular X-Box computer game series had already generated over one million pre-order sales and there were worries that the cinema-going demographic would stay at home playing the new game instead of spending an additional USD$24.50 for popcorn, soda and seeing either Ben Stiller's Heartbreak Kid or William Sean Scott's Mr. Woodcock.
They were right to be worried. Both films seriously underperformed while Halo 3 raked in USD$155 million on its first day sales. In comparison, the first Spider-man film had an opening weekend of USD$151 million.
Ever since, film studios have been wary about releasing films during the same weekend as anticipated video game releases, and nothing could have been more highly anticipated than Modern Warfare 2.
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Upon its release, the game made an estimated $550 million in its first five days. In comparison, The Dark Knight just about made that much in its entire domestic run at the box office. Sure, it made over a $1 billion around the world, but the success of video games in recent years has made industry analysts sit up and take note.
King of the World
By now, everyone knows what a success James Cameron's Avatar has been at the box office, but before its release, it had already generated its fair share of scorn and criticism.
While many were excited by the prospect of James Cameron's first film in 12 years since Titanic, early trailers had generated severe online criticism with many dismissing it as "a very expensive Fern Gully film" or "Dances with Aliens". As such, a lot was riding on the film, not least because rumours abounded that it was now the most expensive film ever made with a budget of $300 million (this has been since revised as $230 million).
However the studio needn't have worried. Despite blizzards across America on the day of its release, Avatar made $73 million during its opening weekend and $200 million around the world.
17 days later, the film broke the $1 billion barrier and since then it has been earning more and more money overtaking previous box office record holders such as Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($1.06 billion) and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King ($1.19 billion). At the time of the writing, the film is the second highest grossing film ($1.37 billion) ever behind James Cameron's own epic Titanic ($1.84 billion).
Both distributors behind the two blockbusters, Infinity Ward (Modern Warfare 2) and 20th Century Fox (Avatar) have 'bigged' up their respective releases saying they've each "shattered theatrical box office and video game records", with Infinity Ward even pointing out that their game made more money in its first five days than Avatar, most of it on the first day of release taking in $310 million.
What is clear is while video games and movies are seen as multi-million dollar businesses, the success of these two platforms, and the inevitable follow ups and spin offs that they will generate (there is already talk of an Avatar sequel and a Call of Duty movie), has ensured that with a mere single title, the video game and film industries have generated over a billion already this financial year.
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