James Cameron’s Avatar is continuing to put distance between itself and Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame on the list of top-grossing movies.
In Chinese box office news, because I’m frankly not expecting much from Benedict Cumberbatch’s (pretty damn good) cold war spy thriller The Courier, it’s time to once again marvel at Avatar. After opening with $21 million, more than enough to vault past Avengers: Endgame on the global all-timer’s list, the James Cameron epic earned another $2.75 million on Monday, $2.37 million on Tuesday, $2 million on Wednesday and $1.77 million on Thursday for $30 million week-long total. And now, on the second Friday of its reissue, the 3-D action fantasy has earned another $2.9 million, down just 19% from its $3.6 million “opening day.”
That brings the film’s reissue total to $32.88 million and the Chinese lifetime total to $235.4 million and its global lifetime total to $2.823 billion worldwide. Presuming it legs out over the weekend as it did last weekend (a 5.83x multiplier), we’re looking at a $17 million second weekend gross, bringing its Chinese reissue total to around $47 million after ten days. It’s currently ninth among all Hollywood imports, between Transformers: The Last Knight ($228 million out of $605 million global in 2017) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ($267 million out of $1.308 billion in 2018), and it’s presumably going no higher on the charts.
If it reaches $47 million in ten days, the film may just pass the $66 million cume of Tenet last year to become the first/only Hollywood import to top even $67 million in China since Frozen II ($122 million) in late 2019. It’s a little troubling that most of the remotely successful Hollywood releases in 2020 were reissues of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ($24 million, which pushed Harry Potter 1 over $1 billion worldwide) and Interstellar ($17 million, which pushed the Nolan epic to $700 million global). Avatar is about to pass the $41 million gross of Mulan and will soon stand behind only The Croods: A New Age ($53 million), Soul ($57 million) and Tenet ($66 million) among post-Covid Hollywood offerings.
It can’t get any higher on the global grossers list, although it can theoretically get higher on the metaphorical “adjusted-for-inflation” global grossers list (presumably headed up by Gone with the Wind, Titanic and maybe something like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) while putting additional distance between itself and Avengers: Endgame ($2.79 billion). No I don’t think a Chinese reissue of Avengers: Endgame will make up the “lost ground.” Avengers: Endgame earned a jaw-dropping $620 million in China in 2019, a 71% jump from Avengers: Infinity War ($356 million) compared to the over/under 27% jump worldwide.
It played in ten times the number of theaters available when Avatar earned a then-record $204 million in 2009/2010. Point being, at least some of this reissue success is about folks who like Avatar but were unable to see it on the big screen before either because of age or (at the time) marketplace availability. That’s partially how Titanic earned $145 million in China via a 2012 3-D reissue. Considering the sheer size of Endgame’s theatrical footprint in 2019, it’s hard to imagine too many folks who wanted to see it in theaters but were unable to.
That said, Avatar and Avengers: Endgame are now under the Disney umbrella, so there’s little value in this “back and forth” gamesmanship. Since reissuing Avatar 2 was always going to involve a theatrical reissue of Avatar, the film’s return to the top spot was inevitable. And now Disney gets to sell Avatar 2 as the sequel to the biggest-grossing movie of all time. And yeah, that Chinese audiences are comparatively flocking to an 11.5-year-old movie seems to imply that they will absolutely care when the sequel drops on (fingers-crossed) December 16, 2022. And if they care by 2019/2020 standards, the film can drop a little bit elsewhere and still be a monster.