The race to the top of the global box office chart heated up back in 2019, when Avengers: Endgame became the first film since James Cameron’s Avatar to hold that position, almost a decade later. But the margin of success was thin enough that should Cameron’s groundbreaking hit be re-released into theaters, it could take the title again. Which is why the news of a select Avatar re-release into theaters might be bad news for Avengers: Endgame fans.
We say a select re-release, because according to THR, there’s a “surprise” re-issue of Avatar headed to the Chinese market. With conventional and IMAX 3D also being included in these late-breaking plans to bring back Jake Sully’s journey across Pandora, and with the theatrical market still a bit starved for content, there’s a chance that Avatar might become the head of the pack again. Especially when the number this new round of theatrical release will need to cross to make it happen is roughly $7.4 million.
As things currently stand, Avengers: Endgame is at $2,797,800,564 with its worldwide grosses, while Avatar sits at $2,790,439,092. On a more granular level, $7,361,472 is all that stands between James Cameron becoming the king of the world yet again. But while it may seem handily within grasp, let’s take a look at some factors that might speak to what might help or harm those chances.
If you look at the Chinese film market’s grosses from last weekend, Disney did manage to exceed that threshold, and with a fresh product as well. Raya and the Last Dragon managed to bring in about $8.5 million, which feels pretty respectable in the climate of current events. So while the similar benchmark of performance in the domestic market may feel like an underperformance, it’s a healthy sign that Disney could be onto something with releasing Avatar into Chinese theaters.
Then again, there was already a re-release campaign that put Avatar into Chinese theaters through the Special Edition run that happened in 2010. Even with the effect of the film’s initial blockbuster release still in the air, all that could be mustered from the fans of James Cameron’s sci-fi epic was around $1.5 million. Additional footage and the new 3D boom theoretically should have been able to deliver something larger than that, and yet the Unobtainium mines seemed a bit dry.
$7.4 million in a normal box office market doesn’t feel like that bad of a benchmark, especially for a groundbreaking film like Avatar. But we’re not exactly in a typical frame of business, and as the folks who rallied behind the domestic re-issue of Alita: Battle Angel will tell you, even with high hopes and a low bar to cross, the results might not be what you hoped. Avatar returns to Chinese theaters this Friday, whereas the rest of the world will have to rely on their physical copies or whatever regional streaming service has the rights to bring the film to them, should they want to relive the fun. But let’s just keep one thing in mind for the long run: Avatar 2 doesn’t come out until December 16, 2022; and a domestic, if not worldwide release of Avatar is incredibly likely in the ramp-up to that big event.