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James Cameron Says Avengers: Endgame Box Office Win Over Avatar Was Basically a Rounding Error

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BY December 20, 2019
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Even with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in theaters bringing the saga to a close, this was Marvel’s year. With Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and the MCU as we know it all ending in the same year, only Avengers: Endgame was universally praised. (Except, of course, by Martin Scorsese who doesn’t see it as cinema.) Nonetheless, the new kid on the Disney block took shots at the franchise displacing him at the top of the box office. James Cameron recently said that Avengers: Endgame beating Avatar at the box office is tantamount to a rounding error. The landmark film from Cameron celebrates its ten-year anniversary this week, despite the fact that the legion of sequels he promised have yet to materialize.

Disney’s recent purchase of Fox means that the Avatar franchise is now theirs, and they’ve embraced it. Starting in 2021, Avatar and Star Wars movies will alternate Christmas releases, possibly for the next decade. While all of Disney’s attention focused on their big movies this year like Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Frozen 2, The Lion King, and Avengers: Endgame expect the next year to be the trial balloon for measuring fan interest in the sequels Cameron reportedly spent a decade working on. Yet, by saying that the Avengers: Endgame box office win over Avatar is a rounding error, is he making trouble in the House of Mouse?

What James Cameron Said About Avatar, Avengers: Endgame, and a Box Office Rounding Error

Avatar Avengers Endgame Box Office Rounding Error James Cameron Image by Theme Park Tourist via Flickr Creative Commons

In December of 2009, Avatar hit theaters when Avengers: Endgame was still a just a fantasy, and there was no rounding error in its box office dominance. It supplanted Titanic’s all-time gross by more than $600,000. However, it also ran in theaters for more than a year. Not long after that, a “special edition” version hit theaters, bringing it to $2.789 billion. Avengers: Endgame had a much shorter release window, and it took the top spot with $2.797 billion. And that’s where Cameron’s quibble comes in and his certainty that his sequels will win the title back.

He told USA Today:

“’I think it’s a certainty… But let’s give Endgame their moment and let’s celebrate that people are going to the movie theater…. I don’t want to sound snarky after I took the high road (by offering congratulations) … But they beat us by one quarter of a percent. I did the math in my head while driving in this morning. I think accountants call that a rounding error.”

It’s unclear if he means a single sequel or the entire slew he’s preparing for Disney. Nonetheless, it does feel like something of a cheap shot. What makes these sour grapes even more bitter is that both Avatar and Marvel are under the Disney umbrella.

The other question worth asking is if Cameron is correct to be so confident? Perhaps because it’s lost in the Star Wars of it all, but there seems to be very folks waxing nostalgic about Avatar. Yet, Avatar wasn’t a nostalgia driven property. What set it apart from the competition was its incredible visuals. Special effects technology has advanced exponentially in the past decade. Yet, if Cameron’s special effects technology has advanced at the same pace, stunning visuals could keep audiences going back again and again despite whether or not the story resonates. (And there is an argument that the almost militant environmentalism of Avatar might find a much more receptive audience in 2021 than it did in 2009.)

What do you think? Was Avengers: Endgame winning the box office title from Avatar just a rounding error? Does the Avatar franchise have enough cultural juice to take on the MCU? Does Disney want their top franchises competing like this? Share your thoughts, theories, and arguments in the comments below!

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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