Director James Cameron cashed in on the worldwide box office success of "Avatar" to become the top Hollywood movie earner of 2010, easily outdistancing actor Johnny Depp in second place.
Cameron earned an estimated $257 million last year for writing, producing and directing his 3-D hit "Avatar," based on its worldwide 2010 box-office gross of $1.95 billion, as well as his share of DVD and pay-television sales, according to a Vanity Fair survey released on Wednesday of the top 40 Hollywood earners in 2010.
The 56-year-old director easily beat actor Johnny Depp, who scored the No. 2 spot earning $100 million after collecting paychecks from several 2010 films including "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Tourist," as well as up front payments for the next "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which is due for release in May.
The Vanity Fair list only included creative professionals -- producers, writers, actors, etc. -- and the money they earn from film. It did not include earnings from non-movie related projects, such advertisements or television show earnings.
Steven Spielberg earned $80 million for Universal theme-park royalties, as well as consulting fees and for directing and producing the upcoming "War Horse," edging out "Inception" director Christopher Nolan who brought in $71.5 million.
"Inception" star Leonardo DiCaprio earned $62 million to take the No. 5 spot.
In sixth place was "Alice in Wonderland" director Tim Burton, who earned $53 million, $3 million more than actor Adam Sandler, who brought in most of his revenue in the past year for up-front fees for producing and starring in future movies "Jack and Jill" and "Just Go With It."
"The Hangover" writer and director Todd Phillips landed at No. 8. "Twilight"'s 18-year-old actor Taylor Lautner who earned $33 million from the film franchise, and "Iron Man 2" star Robert Downey Jr. who brought in $31.5 million, rounded out the top 10.
Lautner's young "Twilight" co-stars Kristen Stewart, 20, and Robert Pattinson, 24, landed at No. 13 and No. 15 respectively, making them the youngest members of the list, Vanity Fair said.
And in an encouraging sign for would-be filmmakers, "Paranomal Activity" producer Jason Blum and writer and director Oren Peli together came in at No. 16, pulling in $26.5 million from the horror film's DVD and pay-TV revenue as well as box office from the 2010 sequel.
Vanity Fair concluded that while nine-figure windfalls such as that of Cameron or Depp are rare, "Hollywood's post-financial crash aversion to $20 million paydays and gross-percentage box office deals seems to be easing."
As evidence, the article's author, Peter Newcomb, pointed to "mid-range star" Vince Vaughn's $17.5 million fee for "The Dilemma," and to large bonuses handed out for box office hits.
To see the full list go to http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/features/2011/03/hollywood-top-earners-201103.