Box Office: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Dominates $134M Domestic, $435M Worldwide
James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” collected $134 million in its North American debut at the box office, confirming audience interest in Pandora and providing much-needed support to beleaguered cinemas.
Overseas, the sci-fi epic brought in $301 million, bringing its worldwide tally to $435 million. Those ticket sales mark the third largest global opening weekend in times of a pandemic, behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($442 million worldwide) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($600 million worldwide).
At the domestic box office, “Avatar 2” tied with “The Batman” for the fifth-biggest opening of the year. The follow-up film fell behind expectations, which pegged initial numbers at roughly $150 million to $175 million. However, Cameron’s films, which have raked in billions at the box office, often start out slower and build up over time. Disney, which owns the rights to “Avatar” after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, is hoping that will be the case again because “The Way of Water” cost at least $350 million to produce and many millions more in the market. . Cameron says the film needs to become one of the best releases in history to break even and justify its massive price tag.
“Regardless of expectations, this is great,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “The movie is set for a very strong holiday run.”
As the sequel to the highest-grossing film in history, Hollywood has some pretty high expectations for “The Way of Water,” Cameron’s first movie to gross $100 million in a single weekend. The first “Avatar” opened in 2009 with $77 million domestically, which is a good start but hardly one for the record books. But the film enjoyed unparalleled staying power, holding the No. 1 spot for seven straight weeks and continuing to draw audiences for months. Thanks to expensive 3D tickets and repeat viewings, ticket sales eventually jumped to $760 million in North America and $2.92 billion globally.
“The Way of Water” will struggle to reach that standard, given the restrictions facing the box office hit by the coronavirus. It won’t be shown in Russia, where the original film grossed $116 million, and despite it being set in China (the sequel’s opening ticket sales were behind projections of $57.1 million during its opening weekend), the country’s box office has been struggling to rebound. . In times of a pandemic, only three films have surpassed $1 billion worldwide and none have managed to reach the $2 billion mark (though Spider-Man: No Way Home did come close to $1.9 billion).
Lucky for The Way of Water (though it might not be so lucky for theater owners), there isn’t much competition during the rest of the year. However, its frightening 3 hours and 12 minutes of running time might scare people away from wanting to watch the movie over and over again.
The turnout for “Avatar 2” was particularly strong on Imax and 3D screens, with 62% of ticket sales coming from premium formats. Globally, the film grossed $48.8 million from Imax alone, marking the company’s second-biggest opening weekend ever and the highest-grossing December opening in history.
“As excited as we are by these early results, we anticipate a long and successful run for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ as more people around the world book their ticket to Pandora for the epic storytelling and unmissable visual extravaganza of what James Cameron and his team have created,” he says. Rich Gelfond, CEO, Imax.
Given the hype around Cameron’s grand return to Pandora, rival studios have chosen to go low, so pending titles are all about the rest of the box office charts. Another great Disney sequel, Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, slipped to second place after five weeks at number one. The superhero epic added $5.3 million from 3,380 theaters, bringing its domestic tally to $418 million.
In third place is Universal’s thriller “Violent Night,” which grossed $5 million from 3,528 locations. After three weeks, the film had grossed $34.9 million.
Disney films held four of the top five spots in North America, with Strange World and the searchlight dark comedy The Menu in fourth and fifth, respectively. Strange World added $2.2 million from 2,870 theaters, bringing its tally to $33.7 million, which is a terrible result considering its $200 million budget. “The Menu,” which cost a fraction of Strange World, grossed $1.7 million from 1,875 movie theaters, bringing its domestic total to $32.1 million.
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