Movies come and go but some seem to be able to rake in sales time and time again. That is if they get the chance to be shown again in cinemas years after its original premiere. That’s the lucky break that James Cameron’s Avatar was able to enjoy over the weekend when it was re-released in China’s theaters, helping it beat the titleholder, 2019 superhero finale, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame.
This would be, in a sense, the third time a Cameron film held the world record for the highest-grossing film. Titanic, which debuted in 1997, held that crown until it was displaced by Avatar in 2009. Endgame wrested that prestige from the sci-fi film but its victory was apparently short-lived. Over the weekend, Avatar earned roughly $12.3 million in China, giving it the small lead that it needed to regain its title.
Avatar gained both fame and notoriety for utilizing the most advanced cinematography tools in the market at that time, being one of the first few films to truly take advantage of mass-market stereoscopic 3D technologies like IMAX and its ilk. Some, however, have panned its rather common and straightforward plot, comparing it to the likes of Dances with Wolves and even, amusingly, Pocahontas.
That, however, is actually the film’s key strength, at least according to its director. Cameron said that Avatar touches on “timeless” and universal themes, themes that are once again relevant today, like climate change and deforestation. This trait has allowed Avatar to be re-released more than ten years later and still garner interest and, more importantly, high sales.
Fans and critics of both Avatar and Endgame may argue endlessly for and against the films but, at the end of the day, it is Disney that wins. Avatar is now a Disney property after the Fox acquisition and has now earned $2.802 billion while Endgame has so far earned $2.797 billion, all of which were from 2019 only.