July 23 (TheVerge) – Just over a month ago,Avengers: Endgamefansconceded defeat to James Cameron’s 2009Avatar, acknowledging it would remain the biggest movie of all time. Last night at San Diego Comic-Con, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that’s no longer true.
Endgame, the culmination of a 22-movie arc started by Marvel in 2008, will officially surpassAvataras the highest-grossing movie of all time either today or tomorrow. There is an approximate $500,000 difference betweenEndgameandAvatar, which analysts predict will close within a day. It’s why Feige could make the announcement he did at Comic-Con.
“Thanks to you,Avengers: Endgameis the biggest film of all-time,” Feige said on stage.
Disney and Marvel Studios have been gunning for the top spot, which has been held by Cameron and 20th Century Fox (now a Disney property) for a decade. The company released adifferent version ofEndgamein theaters on June 28thto help draw in audiences once again, promising a deleted scene (one that underwhelmed fans), a Stan Lee tribute, and an official post-credits scene. Disney and Marvel essentially sold theatergoers extras that would usually appear on the Blu-ray release, in the hope that that would be enough to drive people back into the theater one more time to put the film over the edge.
“At that time,Endgamewas $37M from topplingAvatar,and many — both Disney insiders and rival distribution sources — didn’t believe the re-release would put the superhero pic over the top;Endgame‘s foreign territories outside China and the U.S. were quite short when compared to those ofAvatar,” Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro wrote.
Most of the $37 million is believed to have come from offshore markets, according toDeadline, but there was a real campaign in the US to makeEndgamethe biggest movie of all time. (Endgameis the top movie now, but that could change due to inflation.) People on popular Marvel subreddits were organizing watch parties and encouraging their friends to go out and buy another ticket. In 2010,Den of Geek’s Simon Brew noted that fans were forced to care about box office numbers — something that up until semi-recently was largely a conversation among trades, analysts, and people who made the actual thing — because box office success translated to continuation. That’s not true withEndgame, though.
The Marvel Cinematic Universeis already too big for Disney to suddenly worry about whetherEndgameis the biggest movie of all time or the second. This isn’t a suffering independent film. Marvel’stime at Hall H last nightwas a reminder that, over the next three years, Disney’s superhero divisionis set to dominate both theatrical and streaming worlds. The message that Feige sent was simple: We own it all. Why bother competing? In many ways, it’s similar to the message Disney sent in its open and shameless attempt to surpassAvatar. It’s not success driven by shareholder concerns;Endgamealready did what it was supposed to. This was success driven by ego. The brilliant move was looping in fans to make it seem like their success.
“A huge congratulations to the Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios teams, and thank you to the fans around the world who liftedAvengers: Endgameto these historic heights,” Disney chairman Alan Horn added in a statement toDeadline.
Endgamebecame more than a singular movie because Marvel Studios, which leans on making fans feel like their part-time investors in the franchise, made it feel like more than just a franchise film to fans. Marvel Studios is about to do the same thing withDisney+, Disney’s upcoming streaming service. Fans will spend $7 a month to keep up with their favorite superheroes, and an additional $15 at the movie theater — not one, not twice, but several times.Endgamebecame a new stepping point for Marvel. They couldn’t just be good, they had to be the best. They couldn’t just win, they had to dominate.
“The Marvel fans’ desire to unseatAvataras the top-grossing film of all time is ultimately an attempt to help one of the largest corporations on this planet squeeze more money from fans and provide more value for stockholders,” Cameron Kunzelman wrote atPolygon. “It is an endeavor to strengthen a titan of entertainment that is already so swollen and dominant that some are calling for it to be broken up.”
Disney nor Marvel Studios are being broken up. They’re only getting bigger. And, as Feige basically pointed out at Comic-Con, it’s up to fans to help them stay that way.