One cannot say that James Cameron isn’t conciliatory (especially with two months to come up with a response). Speaking to Deadline, Cameron reveals that he considers Avengers: Endgame dethroning Avatar for the bragging rights of being the highest grossing movie of all-time to be a sign of optimism. After all, it proves movies can still make enough money to break records, including those Cameron has held for nearly 22 years.
“It gives me a lot of hope,” Cameron said. “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.”
Cameron is not exaggerating. The first time he claimed the record of highest grossing movie, it was the winter of 1998 and his Christmas window release, Titanic, had opened at a soft $28 million. It went on to gross more than $2 billion, getting large swaths of audiences (especially teenagers) to see a three-hour romance about a doomed transatlantic voyage again and again. And there was nary a cape in sight. Even since Avatar, the world has changed. Most notably, the excitement for Avatar sequels may have subsided some since Cameron first announced doing multiple films at once in 2010. He opened an Avatar-themed mini-park at Disney World in 2017, but still the lack of sequels made Disney very eager to get Star Wars themed sub-parks going in 2019.
All this time though, Cameron has been hard at work on making Avatar 2 (as well as up to five total films), even as the industry has shifted to the point where audiences appear to prefer seeing original films primarily on streaming services like Netflix and the impending Disney+. But as luck would have it, Avatar is now an intellectual property unto itself, like Marvel and Star Wars, and it is also under the Disney umbrella going forward after the Disney-Fox merger. So that Disney machine helping turn Marvel superheroes into the decade’s biggest cinematic event should do well with the Na’vi in the next.