James Cameron’s “Avatar” and “Titanic” held the top two spots at the worldwide box office for nearly 10 years, but this summer “Avengers: Endgame” ended the filmmaker’s long reign. The Marvel superhero epic finished its run with $2.796 billion to become the world’s highest grossing movie (unadjusted for inflation), pushing Cameron into the second and third positions on the list. Cameron congratulated Marvel and Disney for the achievement at the time, but in a new interview with Deadline expanded on his views about no longer holding the all-time box office record. In what may come as a surprise, the infamously competitive Cameron said he is relieved he no longer holds the top spot.
“It gives me a lot of hope,” Cameron said, “’Avengers: Endgame’ is demonstrable proof that people will still go to movie theaters. The thing that scared me most about making ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘Avatar 3’ was that the market might have shifted so much that it simply was no longer possible to get people that excited about going and sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers to watch something.”
For Cameron, “Avengers: Endgame” was proof the theatrical experience is still alive and well. If “Endgame” was able to earn record-breaking money at the box office, then the door is not closed on his long-delayed “Avatar” sequels to do the same.
“Will ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘3’ be able to create that kind of success in the zeitgeist? Who knows,” Cameron said. “We’re trying. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t, but the point is, it’s still possible. I’m happy to see it, as opposed to an alternate scenario where, with the rapid availability [of] custom-designed experience[s] that everybody can create for themselves with streaming services and all the different platforms, that might not have existed anymore.”
“Avatar” opened in 2009 at the height of the 3D reemergence and became a box office phenomenon because the theater was the only place to fully experience Cameron’s movie. “I’m all about the big screen,” Cameron said. “Not that I wouldn’t do something for streaming where you can get into the characters in a different way but what I love the most to do is to create that completely kind of subsuming experience where you turn off your phone and you engage. You as an audience member engage for two hours or two and a half hours, whatever it is. And that still exists!”
“Endgame” proves people will come out in large numbers to see a movie in theaters, but will audiences be interested in “Avatar” over a decade after the original hit theaters? The giant time gap in between the “Avatar” movies is the biggest hurdle Cameron faces, and he’ll have to get people to remember what made the original so special if he plans to have “Avatar 2” break records. The second “Avatar” film will be released by Disney on December 17, 2021, with ‘Avatar 3’ arriving on December 22, 2023.