Since 2009/2010 (depending on when you want to track its box office), Avatar held the top spot as the highest grossing worldwide film with a massive $2.7 billion. That was until Avengers: Endgame came along and managed to sneak past it by the slim margin of $7.4 million. But now it looks like Endgame’s time at the top may be short-lived.
According to THR, China’s Film Bureau has approved a surprise re-release for Avatar, and since all it needs is more than $7.4 million to reclaim the top spot, that’s a likely possibility for James Cameron’s sci-fi film. Per THR, “Some in the Chinese industry have said that the state-backed distributor China Film Group should push for slightly more time to prepare for the re-release, which could mean Avatar is delayed in hitting Chinese screens again by another week or two. As things stand, however, theater managers have been informed that the date is set for Friday. An official public announcement is said to be imminent.”
Of course, there’s no reason that Endgame couldn’t get a re-release at some point and these two movies keep trading the title for highest-grossing feature of all-time. What’s surprising here is that Avatar remains in such strong contention despite its serious lack of a cultural footprint. While the MCU continues to roll on unabated, the Avatar sequels have been delayed numerous times over the years, and while Avatar 2 is currently slated for December 16, 2022, who knows if that date will hold, especially with any production or post-production complications caused by COVID.
It should also be noted that the approach of using popular films to lure moviegoers back to theaters is a smart move. While theaters have been relying on classics, they haven’t made much of a splash since there’s been no vaccine. But as people get vaccinated and feel comfortable returning to theaters, using older films could provide a good transition period to studios who want to test the waters without risking any of their new releases.