Will 'Lord of the Rings' keeps its crown?

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Avatar continued its powerful performance in early 2010, taking over Titanic's spot as the world's top-grossing film. In Australia, it overtook Titanic in mid-January and is now the country's highest-grossing release.

But there is one country where it may not take the top crown. In New Zealand, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring is the top-grossing film of all time with NZ$14.5 million. That is followed by LOTR: Return of the King, with Titanic in third place. Near the end of January, Avatar had passed NZ$11 million and was expected to top Titanic's $12.9 million for the third spot in mid-February. The local industry is watching to see what the final gross is.

In Australia, Avatar is well clear of Titanic, having surpassed A$80 million by the end of January. Titanic made $69 million and Shrek 2 sits at third with $50.5 million. They are the only films to pass the $50 million mark.

Among the good news for both exhibitors and distributors was the final box-office count. Receipts broke new records in both Australia and New Zealand for 2009. The Australian figure for 2009 was A$1.09 billion, up 15.6% over 2008. The unofficial New Zealand box office was NZ$163.8 million, up 6% over 2008.

The top five films in Australia and New Zealand for 2009 were the same, but in a different order. In New Zealand, Transformers 2 was the clear winner in the calendar year.

Australia
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (US$36.5 million; A$40.6 million)
2. Transformers 2 (US$36.3 million)
3. Avatar ($34.9 million)
4. New Moon ($33.3 million)
5. Ice Age 3 ($26.8 million)

New Zealand
1. Transformers 2 (US$5.6 million; NZ$7.9 million)
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (US$4.2 million)
3. New Moon ($4.2 million)
4. Ice Age 3 ($3.9 million)
5. Avatar ($3.6 million)

The one record that Avatar does not have in Australia is "Most Tickets Sold.” The Sound of Music leads that list, followed by “Crocodile” Dundee, Star Wars and Gone with the Wind. Titanic is fifth. It has been estimated that Avatar will have to go past A$100 million to approach the record for most tickets sold.

E-mail your Australia/New Zealand new items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.