After years of brushing up against it (peep the original, Age of Ultron, and Infinity War on this list for proof) the Avengers series finally topped Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all-time when Endgame officially slid into the No. 1 spot back in July.
Note that, for this entire article, no adjustments have been made for inflation, meaning that 1939's Gone With the Wind is very quietly still the king of that inflation-adjusted mountain.
Anyway, at the time that Endgame officially dethroned Avatar by banking its 2,790,000,001st dollar, director James Cameron was in New Zealand filming a pair of sequels to his 2009 mega-hit. While you would think that that might bum him out, according to a Deadline exclusive his first reaction was an expression of both relief and optimism due to what it signaled for the future of movies in actual movie theaters. This would represent his most recent thoughts on the subject since, at the time when the actual record was busted, we had to assume what we could from a congratulatory tweet:
"It gives me a lot of hope," Cameron at least claimed to Deadline. "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."
To add context, the Avatar sequels were originally pegged to come out in 2014 and 2015. That decision was made all the way back in 2010, and was also clearly optimistic. Due to a series of delays, filming didn't actually begin until the second half of 2017, and further progress has been slowed by a number of unforeseen challenges stemming from motion-capture issues and shooting underwater.
As it currently stands, the aim is to get those sequels out in 2021 and 2023, respectively, with further ambitions to release a fourth and fifth movie in 2024 and 2027 if the next two films are successful.
"Will Avatar 2 and 3 be able to create that kind of success in the zeitgeist? Who knows. We’re trying. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t, but the point is, it’s still possible," Cameron told Deadline. "I’m happy to see it, as opposed to an alternate scenario where, with the rapid availability, custom-designed experience that everybody can create for themselves with streaming services and all the different platforms, that [theatrical potential] might not have existed anymore."
Cameron further reiterated to Deadline that, despite falling out of the top spot, he's still happy that blockbusters can still do their thing.
"I’m just glad it still exists because I’m all about the big screen," Cameron said. "Not that I wouldn’t do something for streaming where you can get into the characters in a different way but what I love the most to do is to create that completely kind of subsuming experience where you turn off your phone and you engage. You as an audience member engage for two hours or two and a half hours, whatever it is. And that still exists!"