Disney+ quietly removes James Cameron's Avatar from its streaming library ahead of the film's latest theatrical re-release next month. Released in 2009, Avatar still stands as the highest-grossing movie of all time, raking in a total of $2.8 billion at the worldwide box office. Avatar was briefly overtaken by Avengers: Endgame in 2019, which is now the second highest-grossing movie of all time at $2.7 billion. However, a theatrical re-release in China allowed Avatar to reclaim the top worldwide spot.
Naturally, the film's massive success encouraged Cameron to turn Avatar into a franchise, eventually announcing four sequels to be released all the way through the year 2028. After numerous delays due to the development of new underwater performance capture technology and the Covid-19 pandemic, the first sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, is scheduled to debut later this year on December 16. To help fans prepare for the long-awaited sequel, Disney announced it would be re-releasing the first Avatar in theaters this September with remastered audio and picture.
Now, ahead of the film's latest theatrical re-release next month, Avatar has quietly been removed from Disney+ worldwide. The move was first reported by What's On Disney Plus. No official reason was provided by Disney or 20th Century Studios for why Avatar was suddenly dropped, though the timing is certainly suspicious.
Disney+ regularly removes 20th Century Studios titles from its streaming library in the United States due to preexisting agreements with other streaming services, though that doesn't appear to be the case with Avatar since it was dropped globally. Given the film's upcoming theatrical re-release, the move was almost certainly made in an attempt to lure more people out to theaters this September and boost Avatar's worldwide box office totals once more. It's not difficult to surmise Disney's underlying motive for making the business decision, though this provides little solace for those who were planning to watch Avatar on the streaming service in the coming months. It will be interesting to see if this move actually yields some strong numbers for the re-release.
Avatar's removal from Disney+ must be especially aggravating for subscribers since no prior notice was given. The sudden removal of certain titles by streaming services is also a major reason why some still prefer physical media amidst the digital revolution. One silver lining is that when Avatar eventually returns to Disney+, it will likely be the remastered version with improved picture and sound. However, there is no indication of when that might happen. It likely won't be until the theatrical re-release is over, and hopefully before The Way of Water debuts in December. Until then, audiences will be able to see Avatar in theaters on September 23.