There aren’t a lot of movies that could significantly nudge the needle on their lifetime box office totals by returning to theaters, but two of the titles that have were directed by Cameron. After losing the No. 1 spot an the all-time list to “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, “Avatar” returned to reclaim the throne in 2021 with a rerelease in China that grossed $58 million, and then topped up its total again with a worldwide rerelease in 2022 that added another $76 million. It now stands less than $80 million away from becoming the first movie ever to gross $3 billion at the box office (one or two more rereleases will probably do it).
But the true titan of the rerelease is “Titanic,” whose 2012 return to theaters added an absolutely staggering $350 million to its lifetime total. While some of that is probably owed to the fresh addition of 3D, at a time when RealD 3D was still relatively new and exciting, “Titanic” doesn’t really need groundbreaking visual effects or updated tech to sell the theatrical experience; it was already epic enough to be demand being seen on the big screen back in 1997. As an added bonus, it’s releasing in time for Valentine’s Day, for those of you who prefer your romances to end tragically.
Early projections from The Hollywood Reporter estimated that “Titanic” will add another $30-40 million with this rerelease, but that “Avatar: The Way of Water” will ultimately overtake it to claim the No. 3 spot. However, more recent speculation from Forbes’ Mark Hughes bets against “The Way of Water” winning the race, pointing out that “Titanic” has time on its side as the new (well, sort of) release.
Whoever ultimately ends up winning, it will be fun to watch these two James Cameron epics go head-to-head next weekend. If you have six and a half hours to spare, you could even book a double bill.