Avengers: Endgame may not have broken every box office record in the book, but it still is one of the greatest successes of all-time. A decade ago, some had doubts that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could work, bringing together arguably B-list characters under one umbrella and building up to unprecedented crossover events like The Avengers. But 22 films later, the MCU is unquestioningly this generation's defining film franchise. None of its installments have lost money at the box office (something not even the mighty Star Wars can say anymore) and it can transform obscure superheroes into household names. Collectively, the movies have made more than $20 billion and there's no slowing down.
The MCU is no stranger to massive moviegoing events (Infinity War happened only a year ago), but Endgame was something unparalleled in the industry. Paying off 11 years of interconnected storytelling, the film was subject to unbelievable hype and anticipation in the months leading up to its release. A combination of Infinity War's devastating cliffhanger ending, the overwhelming popularity of the MCU's characters, and the ultra-secretive Endgame marketing campaign created a massive demand to see the film on opening weekend. Seemingly everyone flocked to the theaters then, as Endgame shattered records. However, it looks like it'll come up short of setting the all-time marks, but that shouldn't be held against it.
Why Endgame Is A Massive Box Office Success
If Marvel decided to pull Endgame from theaters after the first weekend, it would have been a huge hit. The film posted numbers that were at one point considered unfathomable, scoring $350 million domestically and a whopping $1.2 billion worldwide. Some movies are lucky to make that much for their entire global run (The Last Jedi earned $1.3 billion in 2017); Endgame accomplished the feat in five days. This is likely something that won't be matched or surpassed for a long time (if ever). Endgame was a perfect storm of a blockbuster event film.
The best way to determine a film's level of success is to compare its total gross to its production budget. Unsurprisingly, Endgame is one of the most expensive movies ever made, costing anywhere between $350-400 million to make. Going by the general rule of thumb (budget x 2 = break even point), Endgame needed to gross $800 million just to earn its money back. Marvel obviously knew there was a good chance of that happening, since the first two Avengers movies earned over $1 billion and Infinity War crossed the $2 billion mark during its run. Endgame was a sure a box office bet as Hollywood has seen in recent memory. Outside of The Force Awakens, it's hard to find a bigger cinematic event for this era.
It didn't take Endgame very long to move past Infinity War on the all-time charts, raking in $2 billion in the blink of an eye. As of this writing, it stands at $2.6 billion, meaning it is definitely in the black. Working under the assumption that everything past $800 million is profit for Marvel and Disney, Endgame turned an incredulous $1.8 billion in profits. That would be enough money to make almost five more Endgames. And this is only based on ticket sales, not counting any ancillary revenue sources like tie-in merchandise or the eventual home media release. That profit margin is likely larger and will only continue to grow over the next handful of months. At this point, there's no telling how high it can go.
Obviously, there is no universal box office figure a film must hit in order to be considered successful. It goes on a case-by-case basis. Get Out made $255.4 million worldwide - a fraction of what Endgame brought in - and was a massive hit because it cost $4.5 million to make. Considering everything that Marvel put behind Endgame and its status as the blockbuster event of the year, an argument can be made that anything under $2 billion would have been a disappointment (as ridiculous as that sounds). After all, Infinity War made that much and there was probably the expectation that Endgame would too. But when Marvel's latest got off to a blazing start, it became a threat for the two all-time box office crowns, and it's yet to secure either of them. Some may be disappointed by that, but that isn't fair to Endgame.
Why Endgame Isn't The Highest-Grossing Film Of All-Time (Yet)
Currently, Endgame ranks second on both the domestic and global all-time charts. On the former, it trails the aforementioned The Force Awakens, which made an unbelievable $936.6 million back in 2015. On the latter, Endgame is behind James Cameron's Avatar, the 2009 sci-fi epic that took home $2.7 billion. Looking at the numbers, it's virtually impossible for Endgame to pass Force Awakens. Through 32 days in theaters, the Marvel blockbuster has earned $803.3 million, compared to Star Wars' $858.9 million. As for Avatar, the thought is it would take until Labor Day for Endgame to match it - if it does at all.
So what happened? The key here is release dates. Both Avatar and The Force Awakens came out in December, just in time to capitalize on the holiday season rush. As a result, these two titles were able to take advantage of much weaker competition and really pad their totals via repeat viewings. For a major studio blockbuster, January is a far less competitive time period than summer, so Avatar and Force Awakens were really the only traditional tentpoles in town, going up against awards contenders and whatever the other studios decided to dump in early January. The Force Awakens didn't fall out of the domestic top five until its ninth weekend in mid-February. Avatar stayed in the top five until the middle of March. These films had legs because everything else playing wasn't in the same ballpark in terms of scope and scale.
In contrast, Endgame hit the scene the last week of April, giving it a jump on the summer rush, but not too big of a cushion before other tentpoles came out. During its third weekend, Endgame went up against Detective Pikachu, and though it won the top spot, the margin of victory was only $8.9 million. The Force Awakens easily defeated Daddy's Home during its third weekend in 2016 by $61 million. Higher-profile films mean more competition for moviegoers' money. There's a reason why Avatar held on to the #1 position on the charts for seven straight weekends. It never faced anything with the level of interest as a Pikachu or John Wick: Chapter 3. Yes, all movies have their target demographics, but it takes a certain kind of film with massive crossover appeal to unseat something like Star Wars or James Cameron.
Endgame business has really slowed down now (it made $17.2 million in its fifth weekend) and there's no reason to suspect thing will pick back up. Now, there's a new studio blockbuster coming out every week that will look to draw in crowds. This weekend is Godzilla: King of the Monsters. When the calendar flips to June, it'll be the trifecta of Dark Phoenix, Men in Black: International, and Toy Story 4. Not all of these are going to be massive, bona fide hits (a couple of them may score franchise worst debuts), but they're still shiny new films that will - if nothing else - take away more repeat viewings for Endgame. Earth's Mightiest had a fantastic run, becoming only the second film in history to make $800 million domestically and it also made a Cameron film sweat for a minute. But becoming the #1 movie of all-time is an unfair bar to set for any blockbuster, even one as ironclad as the biggest Avengers yet.
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