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Avatar smashes past $2 billion, but can it beat Gone with the Wind?

The sci-fi epic Avatar raked in more money than any other, but what about inflation?

By / February 4, 2010

$2 billion. Nine Oscar nominations. Top grossing movie of all time. Meh, whatever. Factor in inflation, and Avatar falls well below Gone with the Wind.

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In pure dollar numbers, "Avatar" is the most successful box-office release in history.

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This week, the movie rolled past the big $2 billion mark. Americans alone have purchased more than $2 million worth of tickets every day since its December release, often more than $10 million a day. It's the highest-grossing domestic and worldwide release ever, easily sailing past "Titanic."

But what if you account for inflation? Suddenly, "Avatar" sags from first to a lowly 21st.

Box Office Mojo, which tracks film records, says James Cameron's latest sci-fi wonder has pulled in $603 million in the US. (The other $1.4 billion came from overseas ticket sales.) In contrast, "Gone with the Wind" tops the list with $1.5 billion in 2010 dollars. (It made another billion-and-a-half dollars abroad, if you count inflation.) However, to be fair, that movie enjoyed multiple theater releases over many years.

Here's Box Office Mojo's top 10 movies, with inflation. Note that "Titanic" still floats on this list.

1 - Gone with the Wind (1939) $1,537,559,600
2 - Star Wars (1977) $1,355,490,100
3 - The Sound of Music (1965) $1,083,781,000
4 - E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) $1,079,511,500
5 - The Ten Commandments (1956) $996,910,000
6 - Titanic (1997) $976,712,200
7 - Jaws (1975) $974,679,800
8 - Doctor Zhivago (1965) $944,670,800
9 - The Exorcist (1973) $841,427,600
10 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) $829,490,000

To play with the numbers a different way, Yahoo calculated how much you could buy with the $2 billion that "Avatar" earned:

To put this in perspective, a Ford Taurus costs roughly $25,000. The worldwide gross of "Avatar" could buy a new Ford Taurus for all 80,000 seated fans at the new Cowboys Stadium -- with some gas money to spare. Or, if the gross was spread to every man, woman, and child in the United States, this would purchase every single one of them a basic-tier Netflix subscription. (Adding "Avatar" to all of their queues would be completely optional, put probably polite.)

This mountain of cash also comes with nine Academy Award nominations, tied with "The Hurt Locker" for the most Oscar nods this year. Even if "Avatar" doesn't break into the top-ten-inflation list, that's a pretty solid run.

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