All of the combined might of the MCU superheroes proved no match for James Cameron, as the filmmaker's 2009 feature Avatar recently had a re-release in China, returning to theaters for IMAX and 3D screenings. With the added earnings, Avatar has officially bumped Avengers: Endgame off the top to once again reclaim the title of the highest-grossing film of all time.
The folks at Marvel took the bump in good spirit, with Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of Avengers: Endgame tweeting, "Passing the gauntlet back to you... @JimCameron," while Marvel Studios also tweeted their love.
"Congratulations to @JimCameron, @JonLandau, and ALL of Na'vi Nation for reclaiming the box office crown! We love you 3000. @OfficialAvatar"
To put Avatar's achievement in perspective, the movie was able to earn $8.9 million in additional revenue in China upon re-release, bringing its global total to a staggering $2,798,579,794. Keep in mind that the movie is still running in theaters, so the final box-office tally is likely going to be even higher.
There is also the fact that Avengers: Endgame during its initial release was actually unable to beat Avatar to take the top spot at the box office. It was only when Endgame was released in theaters for a second time with "bonus footage" that the film was finally (and barely) able to edge out Avatar with a few million extra earnings.
The failure of Endgame to beat Avatar at the box office poses a major question for Hollywood, which today sees franchise films as the only way to make a killing in theaters. The general understanding is that it is only when audiences are hooked on the initial movies in a series that later films are able to reap the benefits with a billion-dollar gross, much like how the relatively modest financial success of Iron Man at the start of the MCU eventually led to Endgame's billion-dollar gross.
But Avatar was a standalone movie that still managed to come out on top based on the strength of its story and the mesmerizing alien world of Pandora that Cameron brought to life with gorgeous 3D visuals. Hopefully, the success of Avatar will prompt Hollywood to take more chances on original content instead of solely relying on adaptations of comics, books, and video games with in-built fanbases.
Even though Avatar started out as a standalone feature, Cameron had always intended it to be the start of a new franchise. The filmmaker is currently hard at work filming multiple sequels that will explore new parts of Pandora. In the past, Cameron had described the upcoming "AvatarVerse" as "The Godfather Set in Space" with a strong focus on family.
"I found myself as a father of five, starting to think about what would an Avatar story be like if it was a family drama, if it was The Godfather. Obviously very different genre, but I got intrigued by that idea. So, that's really what it is. It's a generational family saga. And that's very different from the first film. Now, it's the same type of setting, and there's the same respect for the shock of the new, that we want to show you things that not only you haven't seen, but haven't imagined. I think that's absolutely critical to it. But the story's very different."
"It's a continuation of the same characters, but what happen when warriors that are willing to go on suicide charges, and leap off cliffs on to the back of big orange toruks, what happens when they grow up and have their own kids? It becomes a very different story. Now the kids are the risk-takers and the change-makers. So, it's interesting, but it makes sense to me. Everybody's either a parent, or they had parents at the very least, and if you look at the big successful franchises now, they're pretty much uninterested in that."
We'll have to wait and see if Avengers: Endgame is rereleased by Disney to win back its box office title. For now, the possibility of another Avatar rerelease in the states looms with the release of Avatar 2 in theaters.