Those in the industry keeping an eye on the progress of Avengers: Endgame in its hunt to take down the global box record set by Avatar are probably some combination of bored, tired, and frustrated. It must feel like watching a sporting event with the most incredible offensive performance in the first half and a slow petering out in the second. Nevertheless, it has seemed inevitable for weeks now that Disney and Marvel would need to take alternative routes if they were indeed dead-set on achieving that ultimate goal: Beating Avatar’s global haul of $2,787,965,087 ($2.79 billion). As of Tuesday, Endgame is currently at $2,744,012,261 ($2.74 billion), or $43,952,826 million behind.
Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced on Tuesday that Avengers: Endgame’s theatrical run is far from finished. The Marvel behemoth is taking a major step to snatch up more millions in the box office race: Come next week there will be “a deleted scene, a little tribute, and a few surprises” for those who make it out to see Endgame again. But unlike those who bought tickets to Meet Joe Black back in 1998 to get their first whiff of The Phantom Menace trailer, fans will have to wait through the three-hour film to get their new kernels during the end credits.
Will this be enough to bring Avengers: Endgame over the finish line? The quick answer is probably no, but it is worth exploring its chances – beginning with its path to the present. When Endgame opened on April 25 with Thursday night previews, it grossed $357.1 million through Sunday night. That was $99.4 million more than Star Wars: The Force Awakens made in December 2015. Despite such an incredible head start, it would still end up well short of Awakens’ domestic record of $936.6 million; Endgame was at $831.7 million on Tuesday, good enough for second all-time at the domestic box office.
Some of those later numbers get skewed in the weeds of platform releases and award chasers getting later wide launches, but that is still quite the drop from weekend five to six. Three new releases this week will likely push Endgame out of the top 10 temporarily, but the new launch with extra footage may help it reclaim the slot it has held for eight weeks. (Avatar spent 14 straight weeks in the top 10; The Force Awakens spent 10.)
The most successful re-releases in the past have been those that have offered new experiences. The special editions of the original Star Wars trilogy in 1997 included renewed special effects as well as excised and new footage that resulted in grosses of $138.2 million (Star Wars), $67.5 million (The Empire Strikes Back), and $45.4 million (Return of the Jedi). Disney had similar successes with its 3D conversions of The Lion King ($94.2 million), Beauty and the Beast ($47.6 million), Finding Nemo ($41.1 million), and Monsters, Inc. ($34 million). 3D re-issues of Titanic ($57.8 million), Jurassic Park ($45.3 million), and even The Phantom Menace ($43.4 million) did solid numbers.
These numbers are precisely in the wheelhouse of what Endgame is chasing since, as of Tuesday, it was $43.95 million behind Avatar’s global record. However, these films were events not just for their extras but because for a number of people they offered an opportunity to see these films for the first time on the big screen. The earliest re-release amongst all those films mentioned was Monsters, Inc., which came just 11 years after its first run. Avengers: Endgame would be 10 weeks – so it might not even technically be a “re-release.”
What does Endgame have going in its favor? Recent history for starters. Black Panther was 11 weeks and $681 million into its run when it jumped back into the top five, dropping just 4% from the week prior. A week before Endgame’s release, Captain Marvel rose 5.7% from the week prior, jumping from sixth to fourth and having the 17th best seventh weekend ever. Then, on Endgame’s record-breaking weekend, Captain Marvel was the number 2 film in the country on its eighth week of release, dropping just 8.7% for the 12th best eighth weekend ever. The Endgame re-issue release would come four days before the next chapter in the MCU, Spider-Man: Far From Home, opens. That film could see the same kind of post-Avengers bump that propelled Iron Man 3 to over $400 million.
Will a pre-Spider-Man launch in the film’s 10th week of release be enough though? Black Panther made a little over $23 million from weekend 10 on. Captain Marvel made a little more than $10 million. We could just as easily say that Endgame is only $33.2 million away from the true record as that would discount Avatar getting a re-release as a “Special Edition” in 812 theaters on Aug. 27, 2010, just a few weeks before its first run finished with $749.7 million. Therein lies the potential rub though.
How much business does Endgame lose this weekend with Toy Story 4 seeking to break its own records – let alone with people now knowing if they wait just another week they could pay the same amount and see the new additions? Optimistically, another $4 to $5 million this weekend worldwide, and let’s double that with the reissue the week after; Endgame would still need another $20 to $25 million going forward. Marvel and Disney could certainly try another re-release around awards time, as there will certainly be some outside chatter for a legacy reward. But that is likely small peanuts, too. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk made just $1.69 million in its awards season re-release in December 2017.
Maybe Avengers: Endgame will need another decade to pass Avatar. When the dust is settled and a new generation of Marvel lovers are finishing up the latest phase of the MCU and discovering the tales of the original group that their parents loved and supported, perhaps an anniversary re-issue is announced and the final few bucks it needs for the record will be handed over for one last ticket. Unless Avatar 2, 3, 4, or 5 has already moved the record forward.