Since 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar has been the highest-grossing film of all-time. Nothing could come close to its substantial $2.788 billion box office record, earning $760.5 million in the United States. The film couldn’t get caught. That was the case until 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, which surpassed Avatar to become the highest-grossing film of all-time in the U.S., earning $855.3 million. The Marvel film was a smash hit, but how did it beat Cameron’s long-running record?
How Times Have Changed
2009 feels like a different era than 2019, so it’s hard to rightfully compare Avatar to Avengers: Endgame when an entire decade separates their respective releases. When Avatar was released in December 2009, the average movie ticket cost $7.50, compared to $9.01 in April 2019, when Avengers: Endgame was released. Considering Box Office Mojo’s price adjuster, if Avengers: Endgame was released in 2009, as well, it would have only grossed approximately $711 million in the U.S. That’s an impressive number, but it’s still shy of Avatar’s record of $760.5 million.
On the other hand, if Avatar had been released in 2019, it would have grossed $3.2 billion worldwide, compared to its 2009 rating of $2.788 billion. The $500 million difference demonstrates how massive Avatar was during its run. Adjusted for inflation, Avengers: Endgame would rank as only the fifth highest-grossing film worldwide, following Avatar, Gone With the Wind, Titanic, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Most film critics don’t consider price inflation, which is why Avengers: Endgame is currently receiving plenty of glories.
“Avengers: Endgame” Had A Successful Opening
Even though Avatar still holds records other films can’t beat, Avengers: Endgame had a better opening weekend at the box office. Avatar debuted with $241.6 million. Even though it won the ratings during its opening weekend, the film wasn’t breaking records yet. Cameron must have been nervously sweating over the ratings, wondering if his biggest masterpiece since Titanic would be successful at the box office.
He didn’t have to worry. Avatar may not have had an impressive opening weekend, but it had a lengthy run at the box office that many films in the 21st century don’t see. With weak January and February 2010 competition, Avatar remained at the top of the box office until mid-March 2010—three months after its release. The film paced itself to its record-breaking $2.788 billion over several months, not in its opening weekend. The most successful films, like Gone With the Wind, have sustained records that last for decades, not all at once.
It was a different story for Avengers: Endgame, which had a massive weekend at the box office. Its first weekend grossed $1.5 billion worldwide, which is a new record for films. In just five days, the movie made more than half of Avatar’s global total. But how did this happen?
It’s all about marketing. Unfortunately, social media was still a fairly new concept in 2009. Avatar had a more traditional marketing approach—movie and television trailers, newspaper and digital advertisements, etc. However, for Avengers: Endgame, the film “blew up” on social media. Marvel fans collaborated together, discussing their theories over the film they had been anticipating for the past 10 years. Fans knew the last Avengers film would have many sudden surprises, and they couldn’t wait to uncover the secrets.
About The Re-Release
Both Avatar and Avengers: Endgame profited from a successful re-release in movie theaters. Cameron’s epic film returned to theaters in August 2010, snatching any remaining movie viewers who hadn’t yet watched the sci-fi fantasy. The film’s re-release brought in an additional $34 million to the movie’s already-impressive record.
The same thing happened for Avengers: Endgame. Marvel producers knew they had a successful film, so they wanted to keep the momentum going. In June 2019, the film was re-released in theaters and added to 1,040 theaters, earning $6.1 million the first weekend of the re-release. The movie took advantage of unsuccessful films, including Dark Phoenix. The re-release kept Avengers: Endgame relevant in the movie industry, and as far as most people are concerned, it will always be relevant.
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