‘Dear John’ jilts ‘Avatar’ from b.o. top spot; who did likewise to ‘Titanic’?

And now for a quick-hit trivia bit, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood show biz blogger: Now that Dear John has ousted Avatar at the top of the box office heap, do you recall which film finally broke the No. 1 skein of Avatar director James Cameron’s previous huge hit, Titanic?

For context, Titanic was steaming toward a worldwide gross of more than $1.8 billion — in 1990s money — in early 1998, dominating the box office each week for 15 consecutive weeks. For the first 10 weeks of that time, Titanic garnered more than $20 million per week at the domestic box office, and its lowest total while still ranking No. 1 was just over $15 million at the end of March.

Then Titanic slipped — slightly. For films playing the weekend of April 3-5, 1998, Titanic fell to second place with an $11.5 million gross. And the film to dethrone the king of the heap at No. 1? Lost in Space, a remake of the silly ’60s sci-fi series sporting a solid cast in Bill Hurt, Gary Oldman, Mimi Rogers, Heather Graham, Lacey Chabert and Matt LeBlanc.

Hard to believe, right, especially since Lost in Space is no Titanic, by any shape or form. That said, I enjoyed the film as potboiler entertainment. In fact, I’m quoted on the cover of its DVD box.

This is not to diss Titanic, a film I also enjoyed. The fact is, somewhere down the line, some film was going to unseat Titanic at No. 1, and it just happened to be Lost in Space.

This week, a similar thing happened to Avatar, which had only been at No. 1 for seven straight weeks and had grabbed $2.2 billion worldwide in that time — in 2010 dollars — to top Titanic as all-time b.o. champion.

Avatar’s drop from No. 1 came courtesy of another unlikely box office leviathan: Dear John, a reportedly sappy romantic wallow which succeeded as Super Bowl weekend counterprogramming.

Again, every lion eventually loses its roar, while every dog has its day. I’m not calling Dear John (which I haven’t seen) or Lost in Space dogs, but I am saying they barely bark at the heels of Titanic and Avatar when you consider the big picture. But all this is just number-crunching. What makes a movie meaningful is how it affects you.

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