Congratulations to Marvel's The Avengers, which has now become only the third movie of all time to cross $600 million in US box office take alone, with its worldwide take now in the region of $1,438.3 million. Unsurprisingly, with the prospect of the movie potentially becoming the most successful movie in history suddenly coming on the horizon, the question is now raised: Can Marvel and Disney ensure there's enough gas left in the tank to ensure the movie topples Avatar?
Admittedly, doing so won't be easy: Avatar's domestic box office take topped out at $760.5 million, meaning that there's $160.5 million distance between Earth's Mightiest Heroes and James Cameron's bright blue ecological aliens. But remember that it took Avatar multiple releases to reach that number, meaning that The Avengers has a chance; after all, it's still on its first release. So, there's the first option to ensuring that Avengers takes the top spot:
Wide Re-ReleaseAvengers has been out for some time now, and in many theaters it's lost the IMAX and 3D screens to other movies -- hey, Men in Black 3 and the latest Madagascar needed to go big and in your face too, you know. If Marvel can push a highly promoted re-release of the movie at some point in the future -- perhaps ahead of the movie's home theater release, with some kind of "See it the way it was meant to be seen … Hulk-Sized" promotion -- there's a chance that a wide swath of the audience who caught it the first time in "regular 2D" screenings could be lured in for another viewing.
Extended Cut ReleaseJoss Whedon's original cut of the movie was reportedly around three hours long, with the finished version excising whole plots in order to shorten the running time (among the plots said to be cut, one dealing with Captain America trying to get used to being a 1940s man in 2012). Given that this material already exists, it'd almost be more surprising if Marvel and Disney didn't try to release an extended version of the movie at some point before the DVD/Blu-ray release (keeping back some footage for the second and third home releases, of course).
Cross-Promote With Other Superhero MoviesYes, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises are both coming from rival studios, but what would happen if Marvel/Disney promoted Avengers with some kind of "That's one man saving his city … This is six superheroes saving the world" pitch? Is that something that could actually lure moviegoers back to the theaters? (Alternative idea: A pitch that goes "So, you were disappointed in those other superhero movies? Well, come back to the one that didn't let you down!")
Cross-Promote With Other Marvel MoviesThe Twilight Saga series has had success with limited release "event" showings of previous installments before the next big episode goes wide, and Marvel got in on that game with marathon showings of the previous Avengers-prelude movies before Avengers got released this year. What's to stop Marvel putting out a one-night-only Avengers event re-release just before next summer's Iron Man 3, with some extra footage (from Avengers, Iron Man 3 or something even further in the future) to ensure attendance?
Second-Run ReleaseMost movies take on a second life after they've left the multiplexes, with limited runs at smaller theaters months after their initial release. This isn't exactly likely to significantly change the metrics on Avengers' performance - I don't even know what second run performances are generally, to be honest - but it's possible that even a small bump could end up making the difference between third most successful US movie of all time and second… After all, Titanic (the current #2) is only at $658 million, which isn't that far away...
… Which brings me to the idea that Disney and Marvel don't necessarily have to do anything but wait. As long as Avengers remains in theaters, it'll keep earning money. Obviously, there will already be a cut-off point for when the movie has to be withdrawn because the DVD and BluRay releases are already scheduled, but if the movie can stay on something resembling wide release right up until that last moment, then it's possible that it could end up overtaking Titanic anyway… And then, just for the sake of it, there could end up being a fan movement to go and revisit the movie one last time before it goes away, just to see how far the box office take can go before the end. Now that Avengers has passed the $600 million mark, it'll be interesting to see if Marvel and Disney can find themselves from wanting to climb a further rung up that particular chart ladder…