James Cameron Says A ‘Spontaneous’ Decision Led To Avatar Topping Avengers: Endgame At The Worldwide Box Office

It goes without saying that James Cameron has seen his fair share of success in Hollywood. After all, the man has directed two of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Avatar, his 2009 sci-fi epic currently sits at the top, having made over $3 billion worldwide. Of course, the film was dethroned in 2019 when Avengers: Endgame took the lead. Cameron’s movie would one-up Marvel Studios’ culmination flick in 2021, thanks to a re-release. And the filmmaker chalks up that box office milestone to a spontaneous decision. 

James Cameron caught up with CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell during the press junket for Avatar: The Way of Water. Near the end of the conversation, talk turned to box office accomplishments. It was then that Cameron humorously mentioned that when Avatar surpassed Titanic, he didn’t send a note to Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet (who reflected on that milestone with CB as well). He did, however, reflect on how he celebrated the success of Avengers a few years ago:

When Titanic beat Star Wars, George Lucas put an ad in the trades, and then when Endgame beat Avatar, we put an ad in the trades celebrating [Marvel Studios]. It’s just the fact that movies can make that kind of money, that people care enough to go to the movie theater. I was so celebratory of what they were able to do, you know? And then we kind of snuck in.

The director did indeed celebrate Endgame’s success at the time. James Cameron was happy about the accomplishment because it provided “demonstrable proof” that people still want to go to movie theaters. But eventually, as Cameron said, his film “snuck” its way back to the top – and received an A+ response from directors Joe and Anthony Russo in the process. However, he didn’t seem to see that coming, as it was apparently the result of a surprise decision on China’s part:

Actually, you know what, we didn’t even try to beat [Marvel] again, it just happened spontaneously. The Chinese government said, ‘All right, time for everybody to go back to the movies. What do we want them to go see? How about Avatar? Boom. Like, ‘All right, everybody, go to the movies this week.

This is interesting to hear, especially when one considers comments that the Terminator 2 director made a few years ago. In 2019, he suggested that there was a plan for Avatar to knock Avengers: Endgame off the mountain. He said that he thought it was all but certain that his movie would reclaim its title. Of course, the man may have just been joking at the time. And while he and fans may joke about the shifting box hierarchy, let’s be honest about something. The entity that’s laughing the most amid the financial shifts is Disney, which houses both of the mega franchises. 

The House of Mouse is hoping that (the highly expensive) Way of Water and its upcoming sequels perform well at the box office amid the COVID era. James Cameron is hopeful, but he’s also gotten real about the possibility of the long-awaited follow-up flopping. It remains to be seen whether the movie will reach the heights of its 2009 predecessor or Avengers: Endgame, but chances are it’ll at least make a respectable chunk of change.

Avatar: The Way of Water, one of the biggest upcoming movie releases, opens in theaters on December 16. You can also stream the first film, alongside the Avengers movies using a Disney+ subscription.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.