January 31, 2023


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‘Avatar 2’ Box Office: Will James Cameron’s Sequel Make $2 Billion?

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After just 22 days in theaters, “Avatar: The Way of Water” has grossed $1.5 billion worldwide, surpassing “Top Gun: Maverick” to become the 10th-highest-grossing film in history.

That’s a remarkable achievement, especially since the return’s opening weekend was less stratospheric than Hollywood expected. But James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel was the de facto choice of cinema during the busy holiday season, propelling the sci-fi blockbuster to juggernaut status.

The film’s star out — driven by repeat customers, IMAX prices and top audience scores — is necessary, and not just to provide a lifeline to beleaguered theater owners. Since Disney, which owns the rights to “Avatar” after it acquired 20th Century Fox in 2019, spent $350 million to make “Avatar” and $100 million to market the blockbuster returns on Pandora, Cameron suggested the film should gross $2 billion worldwide. . Be financially successful. Also, he is already planning to make three more sequels.

There’s a popular saying among distribution executives that you can’t judge a movie based on its opening weekend alone, and that proved true for “The Way of Water” and its $134 million start. That was similarly accurate for the first film, which debuted to $77 million domestically in 2009 and eventually became the highest-grossing release in history with $2.9 billion worldwide. Given the original’s exceptionally long theatrical run, as well as the changed post-pandemic landscape, industry observers feel that the sequel’s ultimate box office potential cannot be properly assessed until after the holiday season.

Already, the stretch between Christmas and New Year has proven profitable, reaffirming the public’s affinity for navel-gazing. Now that “The Way of Water has demonstrated its staying power, insiders believe that the aquatic action adventure is on track to earn at least $1.825 billion. Moreover, it has a real shot at surpassing $2 billion worldwide, an almost impossible benchmark in the time of COVID. Even “Spider -Man: No Way Home”, which became a late 2021 sensation, still fell just shy of $1.9 billion.

At the domestic box office, “The Way of Water” has grossed $464 million so far. For analysts, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the main reference point in anticipating the trajectory of “Avatar 2” as the 2016 tentpole also opened as Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. “Rogue One” opened to $155 million and ended its theatrical run with $533 million, a healthy result that pushed its global tally past $1 billion. (“The Way of Water” had already upset the “Star Wars” installment at the international box office with $1 billion in foreign ticket sales alone. “Rogue One” was not as popular internationally, where the film grossed $525 million.) On its third Tuesday in theaters, domestic ticket sales for the “Avatar” follow-up were up an encouraging 65% over “Rogue One.” It’s a promising sign that North American revenue for “The Way of Water” is likely to reach at least $600 million. The first “Avatar” grossed $785 million domestically and $2.1 billion overseas, including re-releases.

At the international box office, the standout markets are France (where the film immediately crossed $100 million), Germany (where it just crossed $75 million) and India (where it hit a strong $51 million). Even in China, where initial ticket sales were dramatically lower than expected, attendances managed to recover in the following weeks. After its lackluster opening in the country, expectations were that revenues would peak at $120 million. But it has already surpassed $168 million in China, leading analysts to revise its final forecast to $200 million or more. So far, “F9: The Fast Saga” is the highest-grossing pandemic-era Hollywood movie in China with $216 million.

There are significant hurdles to reaching record-book status. For one, the follow-up isn’t playing in Russia, where the original grossed $116 million. And the sequel grossed a disappointing $20 million in Japan, down dramatically from the first film’s $176 million gross.

To surpass $2 billion, a feat accomplished by only five films, “Avatar: The Way of Water” can’t count on exceeding expectations in select major markets like China or North America. It should continue to play to audiences of all ages and demographics across the globe. It has succeeded so far because it is a true four-quadrant blockbuster, appealing to every moviegoer — male, female, young and old. It’s rare today to find a tent that can be family-friendly without involving superheroes or comic book lore. By comparison, “Top Gun: Maverick,” another enduring blockbuster, initially played to an older audience until it inevitably became zeitgeist-y and later lured millennial and Gen Z ticket buyers.

“Avatar 2” has a clear runway for five more weeks without big screen competition As a result, it’s unlikely that audiences will take “The Way of Water” off the screens until “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantummania” hits theaters on Feb. 17. It will open between Blumhouse’s campy thriller “M3GAN” and Channing Tatum’s “Magic Mike Last Dance,” but neither of those films is expected to garner attention for “Avatar.”

If “The Way of Water” can join the $2 billion club, Cameron will be responsible for three of the six-highest-grossing movies in history, including “Avatar” and “Titanic” ($2.2 billion). It’s been an oft-repeated mantra in the lead-up to the long-delayed sequel, but it’s also impossible to deny: never bet against James Cameron.

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