LOS ANGELES - The groundbreaking sci-fi movie "Avatar," Michael Jackson's death and Hollywood's $10 billion-plus box office record rank among the 2009 "moments of significance" recognized by the American Film Institute.
The advent of Twitter as a promotional force in television and movie marketing, NBC's cost-cutting TV experiment with "The Jay Leno Show," and what the AFI called a loss of boundaries for reality TV also were included in the institute's list of 2009 top media trends, accomplishments and influences.
The AFI called the 3-D extravaganza "Avatar" -- released two weeks ago to critical acclaim and robust ticket sales -- director James Cameron's "milepost in the evolution" of filmmaking. It said the movie's mix of storytelling and the technology behind its spell-binding visual flourishes "will have profound effects on the future of the (film) art form."
Michael Jackson's sudden death in June at age 50 was notable for the worldwide outpouring of grief and the "unprecedented global eulogy" of his posthumous concert rehearsal movie "This is It," the institute said.
Movie musicals and comedies in particular proved a refuge for Americans at a time of economic distress, the AFI said. North American ticket sales for 2009 crossed the annual $10 billion mark for the first time last week.
The brief but blazing notoriety sparked by the likes of "Octomom" Nadya Suleman, the hoax-perpetrating parents of "balloon boy," and the Washington couple accused of gate-crashing a White House state dinner showed that reality TV had crossed a line in 2009 "as the cultural craving for celebrity moved in a dangerous new direction," the AFI said.
It cited Leno's move in September to prime time as another chapter in the evolution of less expensive programing and the flight of quality dramas from commercial broadcast networks to cable channels.
The AFI also included on its list the analog TV switch-off in June 2009 and the cancellation of two long-running daytime TV soap operas, as well as the "extraordinary year" of animation with movies like "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Princess and the Frog" and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."