“Avengers: Endgame” continued its staggering initial success through its second weekend. Along with its undisputed both domestic and worldwide opening numbers (no need to adjust these; by any gauge, it’s the record holder), no film has ever sold so many tickets so quickly. Through Monday, Disney is reporting a total of $632 million domestic and almost $2.24 billion worldwide.
As best as can be determined from historical listings, that places it at #7 of all time among all movies worldwide. It will go much higher still — just not quite as high as the public has been told.
To be clear: “Avengers: Endgame” is the very definition of massive. Some of its records are truly without precedent, and its market dominance is without peer. However, corporate press releases are often short on nuance. Disney has flooded the media with data, claiming new records along with the huge numbers. Its Sunday morning report to the media headlined: “Avengers: Endgame Now #2 Global Release of All-Time.”
This simply isn’t true. “Titanic” was released in 1997, when the average ticket price was $4.59 — and that means it had to sell a lot more of them to gross $2.187 billion worldwide. (If anyone believes that adjusted numbers are nitpicking, try buying a house in 2019 Los Angeles for $171,000 — the median price in 1997. Today, the median is $637,000.)
“Endgame” will likely land in the range of #9-#12 among domestic releases. It needs to reach $974 million to overtake the 2015 “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but has no chance of getting as high as “Titanic,” the biggest domestic hit of the past 35 years (somewhere over $1.2 billion adjusted).
Worldwide, it took less than two weeks for “Endgame” to surpass ticket sales for “Jaws,” “The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic Park,” and “The Ten Commandments.” Those films took months, sometimes years, to earn as much as the Marvel monster has done since April 27. And it will overtake a few more before it is through. Its international drop was somewhat less than domestic (55% vs. 59%, although Russia wasn’t open last week), and the film still has hundreds of millions more to gross.
Soon to be passed worldwide (if it hasn’t already) is “E.T.,” which stands around $2.3 billion adjusted. Next will be “The Sound of Music” (presently, $2.5 billion). And nearly certain to be overtaken will be “Star Wars,” which is at $2.7 billion.
The top three will be more difficult. The likeliest to fall is the first of two James Cameron films in the group. “Avatar” recorded something around $3.2 billion (adjusted) in ticket sales. With “Endgame” at $2.2 billion, that means it needs to do around $1 billion additional gross to reach third place. That would mean adding 45% more to its business so far — doable, but not certain.
Beyond that, the challenge is steeper. “Gone With the Wind” is listed by reliable (though hardly certain) sources at $3.5 billion adjusted. It remains #1 domestically (over $1.8 billion). What is remarkable in its worldwide total, nearly half of its entire take, is the initial 1939 release was severely hampered by World War II and didn’t open in much of the world until years later.
“Endgame” would have to add $1.3 billion to reach #2, but the leap beyond that seems out of reach. That’s because “Titanic” looks unbeatable as #1 worldwide with $3.8 billion. To reach that level, “Endgame” would have to add $1.6 billion. With its huge initial business and evidence of the initial drops, that seems to be out of the realm of possibility.
What remains a longshot chance is “Endgame” could compete with “Titanic” as biggest film internationally (excluding domestic grosses). Adjusted, “Titanic” made over $2.6 billion. So far, “Endgame” is more than $1 billion short. But Cameron’s film added about 10% of its take in reissues, so there is a better chance it might reach what “Titanic” did initially in its 1997 release.
20th Century Fox
To be second in foreign gross, it needs to make more than $2.3 billion (“Avatar”). Curiously, so far the foreign share of “Endgame” is just below 72%, almost what “Avatar” did (“Titanic” was in the vanguard when foreign came in over two-thirds of the total; before then, it often was closer to half).
“Endgame” is among extraordinary company, and it has made history. It’s equally important to remember history. That includes making comparisons based on discernible fact rather than publicist hype.