The industry has made a big deal about the box office battle between James Cameron’s “Avatar” and the Russo Brothers’ Marvel tentpole “Avengers: Endgame.” The MCU film surpassed “Avatar” in summer 2019 to become the highest grossing film at the worldwide box office with over $2.79 billion, but then “Avatar” was re-released in China last month and reclaimed the box office crown with over $2.8 billion (all unadjusted for inflation). During a recent visit to “The Tonight Show” to promote his Disney+ special “Secret of the Whales,” Cameron was asked about the $2 billion box office battle. Does Cameron care about being #1? Not as much as he cares about ensuring there’s a future for movie theaters so that any film, “Avatar” or otherwise, can gross $2 billion.
“Everybody makes a big deal out of [the box office battle], but the truth is what we really need to focus on is getting back to theaters,” Cameron said. “Hopefully we can still have movies like that, ‘Endgame’ and ‘Avatar’ and the big Marvel movies and all that, movies that are able to make $1 billion or $2 billion.”
Cameron continued, “Let’s pray that movie theaters are still there after this pandemic and after this shift towards streaming, not that I have anything against streaming. There’s great writing and great shows in [streaming], but let’s remember that movie theaters are a sacred experience for all of us. Let’s get back out there when it’s safe to do so.”
When Cameron’s first “Avatar” sequel opens in December 2022, it will mark the 13th anniversary of the original “Avatar” opening in theaters. Will audiences turn out in droves like they did 13 years ago? Given that the original’s recent China re-release earned over $40 million, it appears there still is worldwide demand for a return to Pandora. The sequel will star original cast members like Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver opposite franchise newcomers like Kate Winslet.
Now that Disney owns 20th Century Fox, the Mouse House has a lot invested in the future of Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise. The director is working on four sequels, the first two of which are nearing the end of production. “Avatar 2” will be first out of the gate and released December 16, 2022.