It’s not enough that Avengers: Endgame made more than $2 billion at the box office or that it’s heralded as a major accomplishment in film, ending a 22-movie arc that spans 11 years — not for Marvel fans. Their end goal to make Endgame the biggest movie of all time fell short by about $18 million.
Not even Endgame, which grossed about $2.76 billion, can defeat Avatar’s historic $2.78 billion box office revenue.
Marvel Studios attempted to claim the top spot from James Cameron’s Avatar (which is now also owned by Disney, following the company’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox) by releasing a new version of Endgame in theaters last weekend that came with a deleted scene. It was 18 seconds long, and it was largely seen by fans as a waste of time and money and was beyond disappointing. The rerelease brought in an additional $7.8 million.
The loss to Avatar is probably a slight sting for Marvel Studios executives, but Marvel fans have been championing Endgame to beat Avatar since the movie came out. Some of it is a long-running joke within the fandom: even popular YouTube creators like Jacksfilms have joked about the inevitable battle between Avatar and Endgame for the number one spot. But some of it is not: other people have posted in popular subreddits like r/MarvelStudios, boasting about playing their part in helping Endgame rise to the top.
People are even writing speeches.
This isn’t a new facet of Marvel fandom. A YouTuber set out to watch Avengers: Infinity War more than 50 times last year. His commitment to the film even resulted in an invitation from directors Anthony and Joe Russo to attend the Endgame premiere this year. Fans online brag about Marvel movies crossing the $1 billion threshold, riling each other up to continue spending money at the box office to support the company, cast, and directors.
Endgame was supposed to be the culmination of that dedication. It was supposed to be crowned as the most successful movie of all time. Instead, fans now have to contend with the fact that it’s not (although Marvel Studios could rerelease the movie again next year in another attempt to beat Avatar) and sit with the disappointing 18-second scene they paid $15 to watch. The personal commitment to a movie — one that belongs to a major studio that pulls in billions of dollars every year — is a sign of where modern fandom stands. The success of a film, at its core, mirrors the success of that community.
While fans come to terms with the fact that Endgame will remain the second-highest-grossing film of all time, they’re also able to recognize that Avatar, as totally forgettable as it is today, was a phenomenon in 2009.
“Avatar was so successful because it was a movie for everyone, a massive event film that showcased new technology to the world that kept bringing people back to watch it,” one fan wrote in the Marvel Studios subreddit. “If Endgame doesn’t beat Avatar (I don’t think it will), it’s because at the end of the day it’s a movie for comic book fans. Avatar was a movie for everyone. There are various other factors, but they’ve overall quite minor when compared to how much of an event Avatar truly was.”