Avatar is a 2009 science fiction film written and directed by James Cameron, starring Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldaņa, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver. It was made by Lightstorm Entertainment and released by 20th Century Fox on December 18, 2009. The film is set in the year 2154 on Pandora, a fictional Earth-like moon in a distant planetary system. Humans are engaged in mining Pandora's reserves of a precious mineral, while the Na'vi — the sapient and sentient race of humanoids indigenous to the moon — resist the colonists' expansion, which threatens the continued existence of the Na'vi and the Pandoran ecosystem. The film's title refers to the remotely controlled, genetically engineered human-Na'vi bodies used by the film's human characters to interact with the natives.
Avatar had been in development since 1994 by James Cameron, who wrote a 114-page scriptment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Titanic, and the film would have been released in 1999, but according to James Cameron, "technology needed to catch up" with his vision of the film. In early 2006, James Cameron developed the script, the language, and the culture of Pandora. He has stated that if Avatar is successful, two sequels to the film are planned.
The film was first titled Project 880, and was released in traditional 2D and 3D formats, along with an IMAX 3D release in selected theaters. The film is estimated to have cost over $300 million to produce, and another estimated $200 million for the distribution and other costs, thus totaling to about half a billion dollars. Avatar is being touted as a breakthrough in terms of filmmaking technology, for its development of 3D viewing and stereoscopic filmmaking with cameras that were specially designed for the film's production. Opening to critical acclaim, it earned an estimated $27 million on its opening day and an estimated $77,025,481 domestically its opening weekend. Worldwide, the film grossed an estimated $232,180,000 its opening weekend, the ninth largest opening-weekend gross of all time, and the largest for a non-franchise, non-sequel and original film. It is also considered to be a front-runner for awards and nominations at the 82nd Academy Awards. So far, it has been nominated to 4 Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture - Drama. The film was rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking.
The movie has grossed over $1 billion worldwide, a feat only four other films have managed. As of January 7, 2010 Avatar is the second-highest grossing film of all time, surpassed only by Titanic.