The Avengers: Endgame re-release was a smart play by Disney, but because of Dark Phoenix instead of Avatar. In June, when Kevin Feige confirmed Endgame would be heading back to theaters with additional bonus content after the credits, the popular narrative was that it was a play by Marvel Studios to pass Avatar's global box office total. The 2009 James Cameron sci-fi epic grossed $2.788 billion worldwide and is the current record holder. As of this writing, Endgame ranks second on the charts with $2.764 billion. After getting off to a blistering start, Endgame tailed off and fell behind Avatar's incredible pace - a byproduct of playing through the summer movie season.
Before the Endgame re-release hit theaters, Marvel's blockbuster was approximately $38 million away from setting a new record. At first glance that doesn't seem like a lot for one of the biggest movies of all-time, it's still a considerable amount of money for a film that's been out for 10 weeks now and hits home media later this month. A closer examination of the situation suggests that Avatar was never really a thought here. Perhaps this has everything to do with Dark Phoenix.
Though it's the final X-Men film under Fox's watch, Dark Phoenix was distributed by the Mouse House, since it debuted in theaters months after the Disney/Fox deal became official. And it may not be a coincidence word of the new Endgame version broke a couple of weeks after Dark Phoenix bombed spectacularly at the box office, opening with just a $33 million weekend and eventually losing half of its theaters. Disney, savvy company they are, saw an opportunity.
In the days leading up to the Endgame "Bring Back" edition, Endgame was actually out-earning Dark Phoenix per screen, even though it was playing in significantly less theaters. For instance, on Monday, June 24, Dark Phoenix grossed $450,620 from 2,054 locations (an average of $219 per theater). In contrast, Endgame made $272,691 from 985 locations, for an average of $277 per theater. On the final day before the re-release opened (June 27), Dark Phoenix averaged $172 per theater, while Endgame averaged $304. And with Dark Phoenix losing 867 theaters on June 28, and no major wide release opening that weekend, Disney felt it was wise to allocate those screens to Endgame, which still had small amounts of interest. Endgame's theater count rose from 985 to 2,025 this past weekend, gaining more than 1,000 extra locations to pad its total. The supplemental content was merely a gimmick to give the Endgame expansion some hype.
There were those (including Robert Downey Jr. campaigning on social media) pushing for Endgame to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time, but this re-release was never going to be enough to get there, and Marvel probably knew that going in. The numbers never fully added up and the gap was too great. If anything, this was designed more to capitalize on the hype for Spider-Man: Far From Home (which builds directly off of Endgame) and fill screens Disney was losing anyway. And it seemed to pay off too, since Endgame cracked the domestic top 10 this past weekend with $6.1 million, which is much more than what Dark Phoenix would have grossed if it still had a full theater count.