Avengers: Endgame managed to beat Avatar at the domestic box office, but the ticket sales figures suggest James Cameron's blue, nature-loving warriors are actually still ahead. Though Avengers: Endgame has achieved gargantuan financial success, in terms of overall worldwide box office gross the Marvel movie is still lagging behind 2009's Avatar. In a final push for the top spot, Avengers: Endgame is getting a re-release with additional material, and will need to generate around $38 million to catch up to its rival.
While Avatar remains the overall global highest grossing movie of all time, the situation was very different domestically, where Avengers: Endgame raced ahead in impressively quick time, sitting behind only Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens on the North American box office list. As the cinematic war between Marvel and Pandora continues, further financial comparison has yielded some surprising results. For example, the fact that James Cameron's movie remains above Avengers: Endgame despite factors such as inflation, increased ticket prices and wider 3D usage highlights just how impressive Avatar's performance was a decade ago and how much bigger it could've been in today's market.
It also seems that there is more to the domestic standings than initially meets the eye. Even though Avengers: Endgame raced ahead of its competition at the North American box office, with $834 million in takings to Avatar's $760 million, the 2009 movie registered more ticket sales. As things stand, Avengers: Endgame has sold approximately 93 million tickets, whereas Avatar managed to shift just over 97 million during its stint in theaters (figures via BoxOfficeMojo).
This statistic highlights several key points about the relative success of both movies. Firstly, how much of an advantage inflated ticket prices have given Avengers: Endgame in its attempt to dominate the box office. Topping Avatar domestically was a major achievement for Avengers: Endgame, and many would naturally assume that grossing more money would suggest it's the more popular movie. These figures prove that isn't necessarily the case, as Avatar still leads Marvel's superheroes when it comes to actually attracting customers to see the film.
Secondly, even if the domestic ranking represented ticket sales instead of gross revenue, it's interesting to note that both Avengers: Endgame and Avatar would still trail The Force Awakens, which remains the undisputed king of the North American market with just under $937 million in takings and 108 million tickets sold. On the worldwide listings, J. J. Abrams' first Star Wars movie sits not only behind Avengers: Endgame and Avatar, but also James Cameron's other cinematic mega-hit, Titanic, and it's curious to see that the contest for top spot is very much just a two-horse race, with Kylo Ren and co. out of the running.
There's certainly a debate worth having as to whether revenue or ticket sales is a truer representation of a movie's success and whether popularity is best measured in terms of how many people went to see a movie, or how much they were willing to pay. In either case, the Avengers: Endgame re-release will need to best Avatar on both accounts if it intends to declare itself the victor of the global box office battle.
- 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