The only question about "Titanic" is: Where will the voyage end?
On a weekend when James Cameron triumphed at the Directors Guild of America Awards, his ocean liner epic took in $18 million to edge out its latest challenger, "U.S. Marshals," and stay on course to become the highest-grossing movie ever.
"Star Wars" remains the all-time North America box-office champ, with a cumulative gross of $461 million. "Titanic," the No. 1 movie through its first 12 weeks, has estimated ticket sales of $449.6 million.
"It's going to sail past $500 million in the next couple of weeks, which no film has ever done in the U.S.," said David Davis, vice president of Houlihan, Lokey, Howard & Zukin, investment bankers to the film industry.
"It looks like 'Titanic' will finally get the throne," he said Sunday of the joint release from Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox. "That's one of the big stories--when is it going to get caught?"
It could take another movie with "Titanic" lead Leonardo DiCaprio, Davis said. United Artists' "The Man in the Iron Mask," out next weekend, stars DiCaprio.
"It might be an unlucky 13 next week," Davis said.
If "Titanic" stays atop the box-office chart one more week, however, it will tie "Tootsie" and "Beverly Hills Cop" for a record 13 weeks straight.
"It will be interesting to see how high is up. Six months ago, $600 million was thought to be inconceivable," Davis said. "But in this business, it's 'the rich get richer.' "
On Saturday, "Titanic" director Cameron won the DGA's top prize for 1997 feature films, historically a precursor to the Academy Award.
Warner Bros.' "U.S. Marshals," a sequel to 1993's "The Fugitive," was given the best chance to unseat "Titanic," and it came close. The film, which returns Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones to his "Fugitive" role, opened at $17 million.
Other films in the Top 10 were New Line Cinema's "The Wedding Singer," $6.2 million; Sony/TriStar Pictures' "Hush," $6 million; Paramount's "Twilight," starring Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon, $6 million; the Coen brothers' "The Big Lebowski," from Gramercy Pictures, $5.9 million; Miramax Films' long-running "Good Will Hunting," $5.1 million; Sony/TriStar's "As Good as It Gets," $3.2 million; New Line's "Dark City," $2.7 million; and PolyGram Films' "The Borrowers," $2 million.
All results are estimates. Final figures are to be released today.