Avengers: Endgame's domestic box office opening may have been more than three times greater than Avatar's, but Avatar's weekly box office take was already outpacing Avengers: Endgame's head-to-head by their third week of release. There's been intense speculation about which movie would end up as the top movie in the all-time box office, but a closer look at the weekly numbers shows Avengers: Endgame never even had a chance.
As Avengers: Endgame grinds to a close of its theatrical run, it's becoming clear that the box office behemoth, despite a record-breaking opening, is not going to surpass Avatar's total box office take, and even a special re-release (really just an expansion) likely won't be enough for Marvel Studios and Disney to catch James Cameron's number one all-time box office record holder (which is also conveniently now owned by Disney, although it was created under the rule of 20th Century Fox).
It may seem crazy for Avengers: Endgame to see the cumulation of a decade of franchise building through over 20 movies, resulting in the biggest opening weekend of all time, yet still fall short of a ten-year-old stand-alone movie without a fanbase anywhere near large or avid as Marvel's, but a look at each movie's legs makes the reality their box office standing more clear.
Avatar's Been Beating Avengers: Endgame Since Week 3
According to Box Office Mojo, Avatar's weekly domestic box office take experienced a rarely seen increase of 6.9% in its second week followed by an impressively low 33.9% drop in its third week, resulting in a $96,916,087 third week domestic haul. Meanwhile, Avengers: Endgame saw an average-to-good weekly drop of 60.6% its second week and 56.6% in its third week, earning $80,949,131 in week three, placing it well below Avatar's weekly earnings.
Avatar continued this trend with insanely low week-over-week domestic drops, like week five's 5.1% drop or week nine's 9.7% increase. Avatar, on the other hand, wouldn't see a weekly drop of more than week one's 33.9% until it dropped 42.5% in week five. Avatar only saw one week-to-week drop greater than 50%, which was a 62.7% drop in week 31, the biggest drop of its entire run, with most weeks reducing by less than 30%, including a handful of additional increases. Avengers: Endgame, on the other hand, in its first eight weeks has only posted a drop less than 34% once with 23.9% in week eight with two weeks landing in the mid-30s, two weeks in the mid-50s and week two 60.6% drop.
Avatar isn't the only thing beating Avengers: Endgame in its eighth week, either. While Titanic actually takes the top spot over Avatar for its respective eighth week (proving James Cameron makes movies with good legs), Avengers: Endgame ranks 134th all-time for its eighth week, just below Steel Magnolias. Other movies that beat Avengers: Endgame in their eighth week of release include Paul Blart: Mall Cop (102nd), Wonder Woman (80th), Stuart Little, Crocodile Dundee (48th), and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (19th). There's also a handful of other Marvel movies like Guardians of the Galaxy (54th), Avengers: Infinity War (51st), The Avengers (24th), Captain Marvel (12th), and Black Panther (10th).
Avengers: Endgame's Average Legs Couldn't Keep Up With Avatar
All this despite Avengers: Endgame being available on more screens than Avatar was at this stage. Avatar debuted on 3,461 screens while Avengers: Endgame debuted on 4,662 and maintained a larger number of screens up until week 7, where Avatar maintained a presence on 3,000 screens (only 75 fewer than week six), while Avengers: Endgame dropped to 2,121 screens, a massive drop from the previous week's 3,105 screens. Naturally, this means Avatar posted a much higher per-screen average every week except for opening week.
Some fans maintain hope that a longer theatrical run, including a re-expansion of screens, will help Avengers: Endgame make up the lingering difference between the two films, but with a diminishing per screen average (Avatar was earning 300% more per screen at this point in its run) and heavy competition on the way from other Disney franchises like Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, and The Lion King, Disney is going to crowd itself out of the marketplace, ensuring Avengers: Endgame doesn't have the chance to make up the difference. Although considering Avatar's legs saw it performing better in its 34th (and final) week of its initial box office run (it would return a few weeks later for another 12 weeks, bringing in an additional $33 million globally), it's clear Avengers: Endgame had already blown its chances of catching Avatar by its third week.
Of course, comparing the numbers of the two movies is like apples and oranges in many ways. The Hollywood landscape has been drastically altered since Avatar's release, ticket prices have gone up, the international box office has exploded, the numbers presented aren't adjusted for inflation, and Avatar made its massive haul mostly from premium 3D and IMAX ticket prices. While Box Office Mojo estimates Avatar sold more tickets domestically than Avengers: Endgame, that calculation likely doesn't account for format differences, so the total tickets sold is still murky, although Avatar also soundly beat Avengers: Endgame at the international box office in total unadjusted gross.
At the end of the day, Avatar and Avengers: Endgame are both cinematic and box office achievements, with a gap between Avengers: Endgame and the number three movie, James Cameron's Titanic, of over $500 million. The unprecedented buildup to Avengers: Endgame certainly gave it a major boost, though, contributing to its opening record. Ultimately' Avengers: Endgame's staying power didn't live up to its hype, as is also demonstrated by its IMDB ranking where it skyrocketed to number 3 on the website's top 250 list, although that initial enthusiasm has waned as it has slowly dropped out of the top 10 to (a still respectable) number 14. Avatar, meanwhile, doesn't even appear anywhere in the top 250, so its legacy may be more defined by its still untouched box office record and the reception of its multiple incoming sequels.
Source: Box Office Mojo
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- Avatar 2 (2021) release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Avatar 3 (2023) release date: Dec 22, 2023
- Avatar 4 (2025) release date: Dec 19, 2025
- Avatar 5 (2027) release date: Dec 17, 2027