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Avatar overtakes Avengers: Endgame to reclaim top spot as history’s highest-grossing film

By Benjamin Bullard
Avatar Zoe Saldana

Marvel’s Morgan Stark may love her proud Iron Man papa a whole three thousand, but it’s probably Avatar mastermind James Cameron who’s loving the box office right about now. Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi movie epic reportedly has officially overtaken Avengers: Endgame to once again claim the crown as the highest-grossing movie in history.

Avatar’s resurgence comes thanks to the film's recent box office re-release in China. Chinese moviegoers headed back to bask in Pandora’s azure aura to the tune of an estimated $8.9 million in weekend revenue through Saturday, March 13 ($6.2 million of that additional revenue came from IMAX theaters, which accounted for 30% of the Chinese box office this weekend). Avatar’s fresh reemergence at the Chinese box office was enough to close the incredibly tight, $7.82M gap between Endgame’s $2,797,501,328 lifetime haul and Avatar’s pre-weekend total of $2,789,679,794.

Cameron was quick to congratulate Marvel when Endgame first eclipsed Avatar's box office milestone, so of course Marvel was there to return the gesture this weekend, tweeting out Morgan's famous "3000" phrase to spread the love among a pair of big-screen titans:

“A big screen sized thank you to IMAX for their contribution to the success of ‘Avatar’ at the box office," Avatar producer Jon Landau said in a statement. "We know that we can always rely on IMAX to offer audiences quality premium cinema experiences."

Avatar changed everything for IMAX — catapulting our brand into the stratosphere and putting us on the map in China — and we’re grateful to help James, Jon, and this watershed film further cement their place in cinematic history,” added Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. “Yet again, Chinese moviegoers are demonstrating the pent-up demand for theatrical blockbusters that awaits cinemas around the world as they reopen, and IMAX continues help lead the recovery of the global movie business."

In addition, the film is the highest-grossing IMAX release with a lifetime draw of $249.5 million.

Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo also took to Instagram with a cool congratulatory crossover, posting an image from artist Bosslogic that merges the iconic Avengers "A" into the Avatar logo. They also tapped recent MCU lore to send along their best wishes, "[p]assing the gauntlet back" to Cameron as Avatar's global revenues surged ahead.  

Avengers: Endgame first surpassed Avatar’s longstanding, chart-topping title back in July of 2019, nearly three months after its April 26 premiere to round out the MCU's epic Infinity saga. Deadline’s report notes that Avatar is likely to hang onto and widen its newly-reclaimed box office lead even further, on the strength of the reissue’s projected $58 million through the lifespan of its current release cycle overseas.

Thanks to Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox (which previously owned the rights to Avatar), the Mouse House benefits no matter which film sits atop the all-time charts. And with Cameron currently deep in development on no fewer than three Avatar sequels, the franchise just might be poised to rake in Unobtanium levels of box office moolah before it’s all said and done. Watch for Avatar 2 to illuminate theaters on Dec. 16 of next year.

*Additional reporting by Josh Weiss

(certain info via Deadline)