Avatar is a very strange movie phenomenon. It made ALL the money. It was undisputed box office king for a decade. Nobody could shift it from that number one spot, even a reborn Star Wars backed by the might of Disney failed to knock it off its perch.
Eventually it took a team up of Earth’s mightiest heroes and a cheeky soft re-release with an additional marketing push for Avengers: Endgame to de-throne it as Champ.
Yet despite this Avatar has made almost zero impact on the collective pop culture subconscious. It may have been James Cameron’s first movie after the record shattering Titanic. It may have heralded the now dead 3D revolution in theatres. It may have pushed the boundaries with its detailed realisation of an alien world…
…but it’s like a forgotten movie. It’s not living on in the imagination of thousands. There are no toys. You rarely see any Na’vi at conventions. It’s main markers appear to be a highly effective ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and a 3D BluRay disc sitting unloved and un-revisited on the fringes of many collections.
Indeed, talk to any group of geeks about Avatar and generally the reaction will be a shrug and lots of comments about Ferngully or Smurfs in Space. So how the hell did it make so much money?
Analysts estimate that as much as 45% of its box-office was a result of the 3D bounce. It was an event movie, it was the first to leverage the new 3D technology so you felt you HAD to see it on the big screen and you HAD to pay the extra for a 3D ticket.
Take that into account and the $2,743,856,300 box-office comes down to $1,509,120,965.
A drop from $2.7billion to $1.5billion and suddenly it is ahead of Frozen, Incredibles 2, Beauty And The Beast and The Fate Of The Furious but lagging behind The Avengers, The Lion King and Jurassic World. Territory which suddenly feels a lot more realistic and reasonable. This, of course, does not take into account inflation or the smaller 3D boost provided by the now stuttering technology revolution. Streaming was not such a competitive factor and online piracy would have been lower, so it could well balance out.
Enough to justify a sequel, for sure. Enough to spawn an entire franchise with multiple sequels filmed concurrently? Enough to reignite the 3D revolution? The jury has to be out on that.
Return to Pandora
So go back, we will. In December 2021 to fill in the non-Star Wars gap in the Disney schedule we will revisit the world of Avatar several more times.
One thing everyone agrees on about Avatar was how much fun the villain was. Colonel Miles Quaritch was a classic bad guy. A dedicated military man with a single tracked mind and total disdain for anyone not in his outfit, as well as for the indigenous populations. One-dimensional, but Stephen Lang clearly had the time of his life in the role and it showed.
Even though he died in the climax, this is the world of downloaded consciousness and bio-engineered Avatar for them to inhabit.
So not only is he coming back, but he will serve as the villain for all four planned sequels. In an interview with Deadline Lang spoke about this:
“Jim indicated to me years ago, before filming on ‘Avatar’ was completed, that Quaritch had a future.
I might have taken that with a grain of salt at the time because we’d had a few beers. Shortly after Avatar opened Jim mentioned again that the Colonel was coming back, and by then I knew Jim well enough to know that he means what he says and he says what he means.”
Talking about the box-office Cameron still backed his ex-Champ. Would Avatar reclaim top-spot with a re-release?
Cameron said he really enjoyed Avengers: Endgame and accepts it beat Avatar, however:
“I don’t want to sound snarky after I took the high road [by congratulating Endgame]. 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.”
Round 2 will begin in a little under two years. We will see then if the appetite for more adventures on Pandora remains.
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, Stephen Lang, Matt Gerald and Sigourney Weaver all return.
Kate Winslet, Edie Falco, Michelle Yeoh, Vin Diesel, Jemaine Clement and Oona Chaplin will join the adventures.
Avatar 2 is out December 17th 2021. A sequel will come along every two years after that.