Can Star Wars: Episode VII Overhaul Avatar as the Highest Grossing Film of All Time?

James Cameron is the movie equivalent of the Klitschko Brothers. The two heavyweight boxing brothers have held all the major world titles for years, destroying all in their wake. Cameron has done the same thing with the global box office. His movie one-two of Avatar and Titanic have been at the top of the heavyweight box office rankings since they were released in 2009 and 1997 respectively.

The question that often arises is: Does a film property exist that can end Cameron’s dominance? If box office takings were adjusted for inflation, the original Star Wars would be the third highest grossing film of all time with $2.7bn in takings, just shy of the $2.78bn that Avatar achieved. Taking into account those figures then, is it likely that Episode VII, with a mixture of the hype, the established fan base and the tag team of JJ Abrams and Michael Arndt working on the picture, not to mention the news that the main trio of original cast members – Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford – are all expected to make an appearance, could beat James Cameron’s big blue masterpiece into submission?

Even if we take away the fact that the true box office king is actually Gone with the Wind (with over $3bn in takings since its release in 1939), it is highly unlikely that Star Wars Episode VII will topple Cameron. It can be argued that Star Wars is a franchise long-since diminished in standing because of the inferior prequels made by George Lucas between 1999-2005, and that the animated series, TV series and endless spin-off console games, comic books and Family Guy parodies have further diminished any sense of occasion that the franchise once had.

Then came the Disney, Arndt and Abrams connections, and the buzz started to nurture once again. Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt was the first big scoop. He has proved himself fantastic at ensemble writing, with his Oscar-winning Little Miss Sunshine script and the subsequent Toy Story 3 triumph all perfect examples of great stories filled with great characters, each one having their moment and own unique voice. You need this for the Star Wars universe, as the lack of quality writing plagued the inferior prequels.

JJ Abrams has proven himself more than adept at resurrecting seemingly deceased franchises (Mission: Impossible and Star Trek) and making them entertaining popcorn fun in the process. They have elements of darkness to them, but they don’t spend half of a nearly three hour running time moping, like the recent Dark Knight Rises did. They get in, get out, and go down great with popcorn. Just what Star Wars fans want for the next trilogy.

Disney are having a tough time of late. Last year’s John Carter lost them approx. $200m at the box office, and The Lone Ranger is likely to lose around the same. Two huge flops in two years will not make James Cameron lose any sleep over his rankings. Of course there is no real rivalry with Cameron and the rest of the film world, and with the Avatar sequels expected in 2015 it is likely he’ll be challenging for his own titles anyway, but it does make you wonder if Episode VII is a viable contender, and how confident Disney are feeling about their 2015 cash cow.

When Star Wars Episode I was released to mixed reviews but fever pitch fan hype, it grossed $848m on release ($1.02bn at present), and the subsequent prequels made $649m and $848 respectively. With Disney’s backing, the JJ Abrams name and (hopefully) a great script from Arndt, Episode VII should fit neatly into third place in the all-time rankings. Analysts are predicting a $1.5bn box office haul, which will erase some of Disney’s embarrassments in recent years and make them a lot of profit, but not defeat James Cameron’s stronghold at the top of the world.

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