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After years of development and production, James Cameron’s Avatar sequel has reached doomsday.

Disney and 20th Century Studios’ “Waterway” took in $53 million at the box office on its opening day from 4,202 locations, including $17 million in Thursday previews. That ranks as the sixth-highest domestic first-day gross of the year, behind Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($90.7 million), Black Panther and Thunder” ($69.5 million), “Jurassic World Dominion” ($59.5 million) and “Batman” ($56.6 million). It’s also far higher than the $26.7 million opening day the first Avatar debuted in 2009, though the sequel comes on the back of Thursday previews and years of anticipation.

All eyes are on Water Road as it hopes to generate heavy sales. It’s not every weekend that theaters get a sequel to the highest-grossing movie ever. When the first Avatar had a $77 million domestic opening in 2009, many reports dismissed the initial performance, pointing to the film’s highly mythologized production process and Cameron’s superior success with 1997’s Titanic, which was the highest-grossing movie at the time. movie ever. But as premium format subs and phenomenal retention extended months later, “Avatar” stayed strong, eventually dethroning “Titanic” for the all-time record.

With very little competition during the holidays, Water Road hopes to create a similar blockbuster run through word of mouth. The film received strong raves from some critics without unanimous praise, currently holding a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics. The general audience seems much more positive. the film received an “A” grade from the research firm Cinema Score, which indicates the strong approval of the first round of ticket buyers.

It’s not just a matter of seeing if Cameron’s latest film can fully justify its $350 million production budget (much less than the financial success of his previous films). The Waterway comes as exhibitors thirst for an event to drum up business over the holidays. The year’s box office totals will likely end up an alarming fraction of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels. And after a favorable summer season that included a variety of hits, theater traffic declined during the fall season, not least because of Black Panther. Wakanda Forever” really gets the crowd going.

For that matter, the superhero sequel is now the second-highest-grossing film of the year at the domestic box office, surpassing its Marvel friend Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ $411 million. “Wakanda Forever” is set to finish a distant second on the domestic charts this weekend, with a projected $5 million take bringing its North American total to $418 million.

Universal’s holiday action flick “A Violent Night” could compete with “Black Panther 2” for silver. The film is also projected to take roughly $5 million for the weekend, down 42% from its previous opening. The domestic total now stands at $30 million for A Violent Night.

Disney’s “Wonderful World” looks set to take fourth place. After grossing about $510,000 on Friday, domestic ticket sales now stand at roughly $30 million. It continues to be a disastrous performance for an animated adventure with a production budget of $180 million.

Searchlight Pictures’ “The Menu” will round out the top five, expecting $1.5 million in its fifth weekend of release. With more than $30 million in domestic ticket sales, the culinary comedy has been one of the few major titles to find a significant audience in recent months.


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