James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Waterway took in $134 million at the North American box office, confirming public interest in Pandora and providing a much-needed boost to beleaguered theaters.
Overseas, the sci-fi epic brought in $301 million, bringing its global tally to a substantial $435 million. The ticket sales are the third-biggest worldwide opening weekend of the 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 “Batman” for the fifth-biggest opening of the year. The subsequent film fell behind expectations, with initial numbers closer to $150 million to $175 million. Still, Cameron’s movies, which are in the billions at the box office, often start off slower and build over time. Disney, which owns the rights to “Avatar” after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, is hoping that will be the case again, as “Waterway” cost at least $350 million to produce and many more to market more. Cameron says the film will have to become one of the highest-grossing releases in history to equal and justify its huge price tag.
“Expectations aside, this is great,” says David A. Gross, who runs film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “The film is set for a very strong run over the holidays.”
As the sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time, Hollywood has high expectations for “Water Road,” Cameron’s first film to earn $100 million in a single weekend. The first “Avatar” opened in 2009 with $77 million, which is a good start, but it almost didn’t make the record books. But the film enjoyed unparalleled staying power, holding the No. 1 spot for seven consecutive weeks and captivating audiences for months. Driven by high-priced 3D tickets and repeat viewings, ticket sales eventually rose to $760 million in North America and $2.92 billion worldwide.
“Waterway” will struggle to reach that milestone given the constraints it is facing at the box office due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It won’t be showing in Russia, where the original film grossed $116 million, and while it’s showing in China (the sequel’s first ticket sales fell short of expectations with $57.1 million in its opening weekend), the country’s box office is struggling; feedback During the pandemic, only three films topped $1 billion worldwide, and none managed to reach $2 billion (although Spider-Man:
Lucky for Water Road (though perhaps not so lucky for the theater owners), the competition isn’t great for the rest of the year. However, its terrifying 3 hours and 12 minutes running time may scare people away from wanting to watch the movie over and over again.
“Avatar 2” participation was particularly strong on Imax and 3D screens, with 62% of ticket sales coming from premium formats. Worldwide, the film earned $48.8 million from Imax alone, marking the company’s second-biggest weekend and the highest December opening ever.
“As excited as we are with these early results, we look forward to Avatar. Waterway’s long and successful run as more people around the world book their ticket to Pandora for James Cameron’s epic storytelling and unseen visual splendor. and his team have created,” said Imax CEO Rich Gelfond.
Given the hype surrounding Cameron’s big return to Pandora, rival studios decided to lay low, so the rest of the titles rounded out the rest of the box office charts. A sequel to another Disney blockbuster, Marvel’s Black Panther. Wakanda Forever” landed at No. 2 after five weeks at No. 1. The superhero epic added $5.3 million from 3,380 theaters to bring its domestic cume to $418 million.
At No. 3, Universal’s holiday thriller “A Violent Night” earned $5 million from 3,528 locations. After three weeks, the film has collected $34.9 million.
Disney films took four of the top five spots in North America, with Strange World and Searchlight’s dark comedy The Menu tied for fourth and fifth, respectively. “Strange World” added $2.2 million from 2,870 theaters for a total of $33.7 million, a terrible result considering its $200 million budget. “The Menu,” which costs a fraction of “A Strange World,” earned $1.7 million from 1,875 theaters, bringing its domestic total to $32.1 million.
More to come…