‘Avatar’ Overtakes ‘Avengers: Endgame’ as Highest Grossing Movie Ever After China Re-Release

James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi has now made $2.802 billion globally

Last Updated: March 13, 2021 @ 10:15 AM

“Avatar” is again the biggest movie of all time. James Cameron’s sci-fi was re-released in China this weekend, and it earned enough money to help it surpass Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” for the highest worldwide box office gross ever.

In just two days of re-release, “Avatar” managed to break the record, bringing its global total to $2.802 billion. Cameron’s film only needed $7.4 million to get past “Avengers: Endgame,” which claimed the title after its release in 2019 and sits at $2.797 billion globally (not adjusted for inflation).

While “Avengers: Endgame” has yet to see a theatrical re-release, having made its record-setting gross in summer 2019, “Avatar” has now had three re-releases that combined to gross over $54 million. During the film’s original 2009 run in China, it grossed $202.6 million, becoming part of the first wave of blockbuster hits during the country’s growth into a box office superpower.

“Avatar” is also the first Hollywood film to top the Chinese weekend box office charts in 2021, following a February in which multiple local films pushed Lunar New Year grosses to a record $1.2 billion. As the market recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, “Detective Chinatown 3” led the field with a $398 million opening weekend, beating “Avengers: Endgame” for the largest ever opening in a single weekend.

“We are proud to reach this great milestone, but Jim and I are most thrilled that the film is back in theaters during these unprecedented times, and we want to thank our Chinese fans for their support. We are hard at work on the next Avatar films and look forward to sharing the continuation of this epic story for years to come,” producer Jon Landau said in a statement.

Originally released in December 2009, “Avatar” was heralded for its groundbreaking 3-D effects and still ahead-of-its-time CGI world. It won three Oscars and was nominated for nine, including Best Picture. The film at the time overtook Cameron’s own “Titanic” as the highest-grossing movie ever (though that film still holds up in the Top 5 behind “Gone With the Wind,” “Star Wars,” “The Sound of Music” and “E.T.” when adjusted for inflation). Before this re-release, “Avatar” had made $760.5 million domestically and $2.029 billion internationally.

“Avatar” reclaimed its title before Cameron managed to release its sequels — Disney and 20th Century Studios’ five-film saga. Cameron told Arnold Schwarzenegger back in September that he was 95% done shooting at least two of the sequels, and the first of the series is currently planned for release on Dec. 16, 2022. The sequels bring back stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, along with the addition of Kate Winslet, Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Giovanni Ribisi, Jemaine Clement, Oona Chaplin, Edie Falco, CCH Pounder and Cliff Curtis.

“Avatar” is an action sci-fi about a paraplegic marine named Jake Sully who is stationed on the exotic planet of Pandora and tasked with the mission of infiltrating the native race of Na’vi in order to mine a precious material. The military gives him the technological ability to become a Na’vi himself by living through a virtual avatar. As he grows closer to the Na’vi, he becomes torn between his new family and his allegiance to the human military.

China recently helped another blockbuster produce another landmark through a re-release when 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” earned $13.6 million and gave it just enough to cross the $1 billion mark worldwide.