Director James Cameron, whose Avatar was toppled by Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame as the highest-grossing movie of all time over the summer, says a re-release putting Avatar back in the top spot is a “certainty.” The blockbuster, celebrating its tenth anniversary this week, went on to gross $2.789 billion after releasing in December 2009, unseating Cameron’s own Titanic as the biggest box office performer in history. Disney-owned Marvel accomplished the feat with its own Endgame re-release, boasting new footage and other “special features,” which helped Endgame bypass Avatar to take first place on the all-time highest-grossers list in July.
“I think it’s a certainty,” Cameron told USA Today when asked if a reissue of Avatar to theaters ahead of its sequel could pass Avengers, which grossed $2.79 billion. “But let’s give Endgame their moment and let’s celebrate that people are going to the movie theater.”
The filmmaker added he “really enjoyed” Endgame, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, but its overtaking Avatar is what Cameron calls a “rounding error.”
“I don’t want to sound snarky after I took the high road [by congratulating Endgame],” he said. “But they beat us by one quarter of a percent. I did the math in my head while driving in this morning. I think accountants call that a rounding error.”
Cameron issued an Avatar-inspired congratulations to Endgame via social media, and the director — who is readying four sequels planned to release through 2027 — says the smashing success of Endgame is a good sign for the future of Avatar, now under Disney following its $73.1 billion purchase of Fox.
“I saw it as a really good sign. I was really concerned with all the new streaming services and the different ways people can consume movies right now that the theatergoing experience might have been eroded to the point that a new Avatar film — even if it were better than the first one, and better received — could never achieve the same box-office levels,” Cameron said. “Now at least we know such a thing is still possible at the movie theater. This gives me heart to go forward.”
An Avatar re-release, intended to generate hype for the new films after a decade, is “under discussion” at Disney, according to Cameron, and the decision lies with the studio.
“If [a rerelease] can service the release of the sequels, then great. Our focus is on the sequels,” added producer Jon Landau. “It’s not about looking back, not trying to overtake.”
Avatar 2 is set for Dec. 17, 2021, ahead of planned release dates for Avatar 3 in 2023, Avatar 4 in 2025 and Avatar 5 in 2027. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.