Earlier this year, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame surpassed James Cameron’s Avatar to become the all-time highest-grossing movie ever worldwide with $2.79 billion. It dethroned Avatar ($2.78 billion), which had held the No. 1 position since 2009. Cameron isn’t salty about his movie’s record being broken, however, as he explained in a recent interview that the enormous success of Avengers proves that people are still willing and eager to go to the theatre–and that’s good for the movie business all up.
“It gives me a lot of hope,” Cameron told Deadline. “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.”
Avatar 2 is slated to hit theatres in December 2021, with Avatar 3 coming in December 2023. Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 are slated to hit cinemas in 2024 and 2027, but Deadline points out that these movies might not happen if the first two sequels don’t succeed at the box office.
Cameron said he isn’t sure if the Avatar sequels can be as enormously successful at capturing “the zeitgeist” like Endgame did. However, Endgame proves that it is possible, and that’s a big deal, he said.
“Will Avatar 2 and 3 be able to create that kind of success in the zeitgeist? Who knows. We’re trying. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t, but the point is, it’s still possible,” Cameron said. “I’m happy to see it.”
With the rise of Netflix and streaming, some have wondered how that may impact the eagerness of people to leave their homes and watch movies in a theatre. It remains to be seen how it will all shake out, and as for Cameron, he said he’s happy to see the traditional movie-going experience remaining popular. He said there is an “alternate scenario” focused more on streaming and away from theatres that could have led to a situation where big, tentpole movies might not succeed on the level they do today.
While Cameron’s Avatar was knocked down to No. 2, his earlier movie, Titanic ($2.18 billion), sits at No. 3 all time not adjusted for inflation, so he’s doing just fine. With inflation factored in, however, Avatar remains ahead of Avengers: Endgame in some categories.
No new Avengers movies have been announced, but Marvel’s Phase 4 includes a number of anticipated films like Black Widow, The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Thor: Love and Thunder, among others.