Avengers: Endgame is getting a second release in theaters, highlighting exactly how huge a target Avatar set when it became the highest-grossing movie of all time ten years ago. Even before Avengers: Endgame premiered to rave reviews and record-breaking pre-release ticket sales, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was never going to be a flop. Following on from the shocking cliffhanger of Avengers: Infinity War, fans were desperate to see what became of their favorite dusted superheroes, in what was being touted as the conclusion to the first saga of MCU movies.
Of course, Avengers: Endgame did more than just manage to scrape a profit, rooting itself atop the weekly box office charts and enjoying a record-breaking opening, but there was always one goal Marvel Studios silently but surely had their eye on: the record for the highest worldwide grossing film of all time, currently held by James Cameron's Avatar. Now at the conclusion of its theatrical stint, the Avengers certainly gave their blue rivals on Pandora a good fight, beating away Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Titanic with relative ease to attain second place, but Avengers: Endgame has been unable to displace Avatar at the top of the cinematic pile.
It was perhaps unsurprising, then, when Marvel Studios announced earlier this week that Avengers: Endgame would be getting a re-release with additional scenes and some post-credits surprises. This is a fairly transparent attempt to take Avatar's crown, but the fact that Avengers: Endgame needs a second run just to compete against Cameron's groundbreaking tale of man vs. nature speaks volumes about the absurd amount of money Avatar generated back in 2009.
Unlike its two closest competitors, Avatar arrived without the backing of a well-established franchise. While both Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Force Awakens rode on the back of decades-old characters and multiple previous releases, Avatar was an entirely original concept, albeit one boosted by the new-fangled gimmick of 3D technology, and to hold off movies that fans had been waiting years for in some cases is no mean feat. The last decade has seen a surge in the development of sequels and reboots on the big screen, as studios see such projects as less risky propositions than original, untested fare. Whatever your opinion on the originality of Avatar's story, the movie itself didn't have any sort of established following when it arrived in theaters, making its eventual dominance all the more impressive.
Somewhat scarily, Avatar's highest grossing movie record isn't even adjusted for inflation. With a decade of economic change between Avatar and Avengers: Endgame, the takings for Cameron's movie would be even more gargantuan if measured by today's standards (over $3 billion) and the gulf between the two films would surely be insurmountable. One also must consider that the last ten years have seen an increase in ticket prices, more widespread use of 3D technology in theaters and a rise in the amount of IMAX screens available. Essentially, this means that Avengers: Endgame failed to break Avatar's record, even though fans were paying more to get in.
Even if Avengers: Endgame does go on to break Avatar's coveted record, the fact that the film had to be re-released in order to do so will add a slightly hollow ring to the victory, not that Marvel Studios will mind one bit. But with multiple Avatar films on the horizon, they may not hold on to that title for very long.
- 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