Box Office Film News

Avengers: Endgame Has Already Topped Avatar in One Key Category

Avengers: Endgame is currently being subsumed into the new national pastime of box office watching:

Iron Man, Cap and the rest have toppled just about every record imaginable, already passing Titanic to officially become the second highest-grossing film of all time. That’s one James Cameron movie down, one more to go. Can Endgame top Avatar as well? Inquiring – and probably betting – minds want to know.

Whether this actually happens or not seems almost completely immaterial to me. Endgame has already prevailed where Avatar failed: it’s a movie built to have an actual long-lasting cultural impact. It’s also a sequel everyone wanted to see. Can you say the same about Avatar’s 75 – number picked at random because I’ve truly lost track of how many of these things Cameron intends to make – sequels?

Part of the reason for this intense interest in Endgame’s potential to top Avatar is simply because virtually everything in our culture now seems to come down to binary competitions between two giants – Trump vs. Clinton, Disney vs. Netflix, Golden State Warriors vs. the NBA, Facebook vs. Twitter, latest blockbuster movie vs. old blockbuster movie . Part of is due to the undeniable historical curiosity of it all. Another part is because Cameron badmouthed the Marvel movies in the past. Well, Ric Flair, you wanna take this one?

Thank you, Mr. Flair. Endgame just might beat Avatar in the record books and therefore become “the man,” with apologies to anyone wincing at the dude-centric nature of that term.

Financially, however, Endgame will never truly topple Avatar. As The Washington Post laid out in exhaustive detail, Avatar’s accomplishment will always ring more impressive due to the total number of tickets sold, inflation, and the stark difference between the Chinese market in 2004 versus now. Back then, there were only 5,000 movie screens in China; there 60,0000 now. So, “even if Endgame continues to rake in the coin in China, garnering as much as four times as Avatar, it still shouldn’t be equated with the Cameron blockbuster for this reason: It’s had more than 10 times the screens on which to play.”

Culturally, eh, it’s a different story. Endgame will always stand out as the absolute zenith in the comic book-ification of mainstream cinema. It will never be looked at on the charts as a single movie but instead the representation of 22 total films and 11 years of storytelling.

Avatar, on the other hand, was a 3D novelty item, a first-of-its-kind technological achievement married to an easily understood Dances With Wolves narrative with literal cigar-chomping villains and star-crossed lovers. The culture demanded we all see it mostly because no one had ever seen a movie quite like it before. It was a monumental step forward in filmmaking technology, a James Cameron specialty, but its story enacted virtually no long-lasting impact on culture. We more remember all the awful 3D movies Hollywood threw at us because of Avatar’s success than we do we whether Sigourney Weaver’s characters survives or dies in Avatar.

Avatar is now more notable for the Pandora – World of Avatar attraction at Disney World.

You can still never take away Avatar’s financial achievements, but Avatar’s record is that of a single film; Endgame’s record – should it end up #1 or #2 on the all-time chart – will be that of a glorified TV show’s series finale. The inherent disconnect between those two ideas virtually ensures Endgame will live longer in the popular memory than Avatar simply because we already invested so much time, energy, and emotion in these characters and their respective films.

Besides, if you think of Endgame as a Part 2 to Infinity War – and there are those who would argue against that viewpoint since although the two films tell the same continuous story they are two very different beasts in tone – then their combined financial easily overcomes anything else in film history.

You move, Avatar 2, 3, 4, 5…or however damn many of them Cameron has on the way.

The real winner in all of this is obvious: Disney, which now owns both the Avengers AND Avatar.

Update: And Disney just pushed back all of the Avatar sequels. 


  1. Realistically speaking, Avatar could be passed by ten movies, it wouldn’t change anything about the huge financial success it was. Jus like Snow White was. Just like Gone with the Wind was. Just like Sound of Music was. Just like Titanic was.

    I think the desire of something to dethrone Avatar is partly born out of the realisation that it simply isn’t that good of a movie. It is a gimmick. and I suspect, deep down the people who run ten times and more into the theatres to see it are kind of embarrassed now.

    Also, the fact that the MCU build for eleven years towards Endgame makes it kind of the more deserving carrier of the crown in the first place. It isn’t just a movie which was dropped by accident at exactly the right moment, it worked for its success.

    So, yeah, I admit that there will be some mild satisfaction if Endgame dethrones Avatar…even more so if Far from home gives it enough of a “should watch this again to put me in the right mood beforehand” push to put it over the three billion mark. I think they can do it. I was watching it a second time last thursday and the theatre was pretty full. Which is kind of unusual for an under the week showing and considering that Germany is one of the markets in which the MCU does well but not overwhelmingly well, I took this as a good sign.

    1. I agree. A lot of the rooting interest here has to do with how regretful everyone is over Avatar somehow becoming the biggest film of all time. Surely that’s a title Endgame deserves more than Avatar and all that. Also agreed the “re-visit or catch-up” viewing pre-Far From Home might be the clincher for Endgame if it does top Avatar. Black Panther and Captain Marvel, for example, both experienced significant bumps right before the release of the next Marvel movie. Also agreed about the busy theater in Germany being a good sign. Just a couple of nights ago, I ducked into a Thursday night screening of Endgame in my local AMC’s biggest theater and it was almost totally sold out even though the movie was also playing on at least 2 other screens within an hour – before or after – that start time. I get the sense this kind of thing is happening everywhere, but to hear it confirmed in a country which doesn’t normally go as gaga for MCU entries as the US is definitely a good sign for Disney’s business.

      1. Well, in China alone Endgame already made more than double than what Avatar did which is naturally due to the growing numbers of theatres in China, but that combined with it steadily climbing up in a lot of other markets too makes me wonder where it will end up in the end. It is already the highest grossing foreign movie in China and well on its way to become the highest grossing overall. Plus, the only reason why it didn’t break Titanics second weekend record is pretty much the longer runtime and the fact that Titanics second weekend was one day longer so to speak. So its well on track but I guess next weekend will be the decider. I doubt that Pikachu will be much of a problem. It is reviewed okay, but it only opened on place 3 in Japan, which tells me that maybe the fandom isn’t quite as big as some people might have thought.

      2. Agreed about Detective Pikachu. Almost solely because of Ryan Reynolds doing a Deadpool impression in a non-Deadpool movie, I am beyond fascinated by Detective Pikachu. Will be seeing it Friday night, reviewing early Saturday morning. However, I have no real sense of widespread interest there. One early industry projection has it opening to $75 million, which seems a bit high to me. Even so, that’s domestic only. Who knows how it will be worldwide. As you point out, that Japan indicator is for good, but not amazing biz

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