When Avengers: Endgame overtook Avatar for all-time highest-grossing film back in late July, many might have expected legendary director James Cameron to be a bit sour. After all, Cameron had previously held the top box office spot for over two decades. We wouldn't think it'd be easy to relinquish that crown, but Cameron seems darnright happy about finally being booted from the top spot.
Speaking with Deadline, Cameron said the news of being unseated as king of the box office gave him "a lot of hope." If that response leaves you scratching your noggin', don't worry. There is a perfectly good explanation for it. For Cameron, Endgame's domination at the box office means people still actually like going to the movies. (We'd go a touch further and say people don't just like it, they love it — at least where the MCU is concerned.)
Cameron, who has been busy filming the follow-up to his 2009 sci-fi smash-hit Avatar, revealed to Deadline his concern about bringing the franchise back was that people weren't interested in the theater-going experience anymore. It's been a decade since Cameron first introduced audiences to the world of the Na'vi. Since then, streaming services have exploded in popularity. And the director's reservations about filling theater seats are not without merit: The New York Times reports overall box office returns have been a bit sluggish this year, though they stress that receipts during the busy holiday movie season could more than makeup for this slump.
Just the same, for Cameron, Endgame's success gives him reason to hope: “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.”
According to Variety, Endgame officially surpassed Avatar's box office returns after grossing $2.7902 billion, surpassing Avatar's $2.7897 billion on July 20. In response to being unseated, Cameron tweeted out the following congratulations:
The Tweet includes a line of the Na'Vi language and its meaning: "oel ngati kameie, I see you, Marvel." James Cameron had made a similar friendly gesture in May when Endgame overtook his 1997 film, Titanic. The Russo Brothers were quick to respond with an homage to the director's impressive career and numerous achievements within the film industry.
Cameron has also been a pioneer within the field of visual and special effects, perhaps most notably with films like Terminator (1984), Alien (1986), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). But he's breathing a sigh of relief that he's not alone in his love of the theater.
“I’m just glad it still exists because I’m all about the big screen," Cameron told Deadline. "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!”
While streaming services may give us the ability to curate what and when we watch something, there is nothing like the experience of going to the movies. It's hard for us to imagine any future where the theater isn't a part of our lives. Good thing we won't have to, as both Marvel Studios and Cameron are going to keep us in those theater seats well into the next decade, right? Marvel's Phase 4 has a total of 10 films on the way, and Cameron is planning four Avatar sequels, beginning with Avatar 2 on Dec. 17, 2021.
Yah James, don't worry. We're going to be in those seats for a good lonnnggg while.