As far as I know, 3D Studio Max, though regarded as a useful tool, is not in the same field as Alias/Wavefront's Maya and (I think it's avid's now) softimage. As per volume sold, 3DSMAX has the largest market share, but is less used in movies than lightwave.
The Major contenders are:
- Alias/Wavefront's Maya; at 10-50 thousand dollars per license, depending on which options you choose.
- Avid's Softimage; only about 15 grand a license
- Autodesk's 3DSMAX; at about 3.5 thousand dollars a license
- Newtek's Lightwave 3D which is about 2500 dollars a license
- Play inc.'s Electric Image. Only about 2300 dollars.
- Maxon's Cinema 4D at about 2100 dollars.
There are also many programs that are used for specific modeling or rendering purposes, such as FormZ or Renderman.
While Max does have the majority of the market, its uses are primarily in the gaming market. Its ray trace quality and speed has been criticized, as has its usability, but it does have an immense array of tools for modeling and such. For my money I'd say stick to one of the last three on the list above: they offer significantly greater value.