It’s 2021 and the movie currently holding the title of the highest-grossing movie in history is one that was released in 2009.
That’s right—Avengers: Endgame is no longer the highest-grossing movie of all time as it has relinquished the title to James Cameron’s sci-fi movie Avatar, the previous record-holder.
To recall: Avatar, which was released in December 2009, held this title for a decade after earning $2.7897 billion in the worldwide box office. But this was usurped by Avengers: Endgame—Marvel Studios’ superhero movie that served as the culmination of its decade-long, then 21-movie cinematic universe—when it earned $2.7902 billion globally.
But on Friday, March 12, Avatar was re-released in theaters in China. According to Variety, Avatar grossed $3.5 million on Friday and took back the box office crown with $2.802 billion over the weekend.
Marvel Studios congratulated Avatar over this achievement on Twitter. “We love you 3000,” the tweet said, a reference to one of the iconic dialogues from Avengers: Endgame.
Cameron responded to Marvel Studios’ tweet with a simple blue heart emoji.
Cameron—who previously held the title with his 1997 romantic epic Titanic, before his own movie Avatar claimed the distinction—is working on four sequels to Avatar, the first of which is reported to be scheduled for release in December 2022.
Meanwhile, in a statement sent to Entertainment Weekly, Avatar producer Jon Landau said that they are proud “to reach this great milestone.” Landau added that he and Cameron are thrilled “that the film is back in theaters during these unprecedented times, and we want to thank our Chinese fans for their support.”
He added, ”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.”
The box office achievements of Avengers: Endgame and Avatar are nothing to dismiss, regardless of which movie holds the highest-grossing movie of all time title. Avatar ran in theaters for almost a year when it first came out—a theatrical ran that was unmatched in recent times. Meanwhile, Avengers: Endgame managed to beat Avatar’s box-office haul in just months, although it’s worth noting that movie tickets in 2009 were cheaper than in 2019. These figures are not adjusted for inflation.
It’s also interesting to note that Avatar’s re-release means there is an audience for movies in actual, physical theaters right now in China. According to Fortune, movie ticket sales in China reached over $92 million on January 1 alone. China has allowed theaters and other entertainment venues to open, Fortune reports. In contrast, according to Box Office Mojo, the US earned a little over $59 million for the entirety of January 2021.
In the Philippines, mall operators deferred the reopening of cinemas earlier this month as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the country. This has prompted movie producers and distributors to postpone theatrical releases of their films, choosing to release them via video-on-demand online platforms. For instance, TBA Studios postponed the originally-planned March 17 theatrical release of its movie Dito at Doon.
Viva Films and Star Cinema opted to release their movies—such as the Coco Martin and Angelica Panganiban-starrer Love or Money and the controversial Daryll Yap comedy Tililing—via their own video streaming platforms.
Others like GMA Pictures, which announced its production of a Bea Alonzo-Alden Richards remake of a South Korean film, said it might wait for theaters to open before releasing the movie.