"Avatar" becomes highest-grossing movie

Director James Cameron hugs actress Zoe Saldana after his film 'Avatar' was named best action film at the 15th Critics' Choice Movie Awards in Los Angeles, January 15, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sci-fi spectacular “Avatar” has surpassed “Titanic” to become the highest-grossing movie worldwide, distributor 20th Century Fox said on Tuesday.

The worldwide total for the James Cameron movie stands at $1.859 billion after Monday’s sales, beating the $1.843 billion haul racked up by “Titanic” in 1997-1998, said Greg Brilliant, spokesman for the News Corp-owned studio.

The data are not adjusted for inflation.

“Avatar” broke the seemingly insurmountable record set by “Titanic” in little over six weeks, handing Cameron the remarkable feat of directing the world’s two biggest movies of all time.

It has reigned at the top of North American box office for six weeks. It has also led the field in France, China, Germany and Russia.

The action-adventure movie, starring Sigourney Weaver, is set in 2154 and tells the tale of a disabled ex-Marine sent to 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.

The film took more than five years to make and was reportedly one of the most expensive films, with a budget of at least $300 million.

It has wowed both critics and fans, winning a Golden Globe last week. It is expected to garner an Oscar nomination next month.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Editing by Stacey Joyce