The Way Of Water’ Rakes In $53 Million Opening Day—Which May Not Be Enough


James Cameron’s highly anticipated Avatar: The Way of Water earned $53 million in its opening day release in the U.S., almost double the opening day success of its blockbuster predecessor, although it’s only the sixth-best film opening this year, and Cameron needs it to be a huge blockbuster to justify its nine-figure budget.

Key Facts

The Disney and 20th Century Studios sequel to 2009’s Avatar—the highest-grossing film of all time—opened in more than 4,200 theaters this weekend, collecting $17 million in Thursday previews and another $36 million on Friday, Variety reported—nearly double the $26.7 million the first Avatar made on its opening day.

Deadline projects it to make between $130 million and $150 million domestically this weekend, short of the $150 million to $170 million it had been projected to make.

It falls short of the initial success of four Marvel and DC Comics sequels released earlier this year: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which made $90.7 on its opening day, as well as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($84.2 million), Thor: Love and Thunder ($69.5 million) and The Batman (56.6 million).

It was also narrowly edged out by Jurassic World Dominion, another sequel in the rebooted Jurassic Park franchise, which made $59.5 million on its opening day.

IMAX and premium large format (PLF) made up nearly one third of the highly produced movie’s ticket sales on Thursday and Friday, Deadline reported.

Key Background

Avatar: The Way of Water, which has been years in production, received two Golden Globes nominations earlier this week, for best drama film and best director. Reviews have generally been positive, with viewers giving it a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while critics on the site give it a 78%. It also has a 69/100 review from critics and a 71/100 general review on Metacritic, and posted a score of 8.2/10 on IMDb. Earlier this week, the Hollywood Reporter called the sequel “monumental,” and said it “justifies its three-hours-plus of screen time and its mammoth financial investment,” although Variety was less favorable in its review, criticizing the movie for having “almost zero dimensionality to the characters,” while The Guardian dubbed it a “trillion-dollar screensaver.”

Big Number

$400 million. That’s how much Avatar: The Way of Water reportedly cost to produce. Cameron told GQ last month it needs to be the “third or fourth highest grossing film in history” in order to break even. The first Avatar movie grossed over $2.92 billion worldwide, unseating Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic for the title of highest-grossing movie of all time (Avengers Endgame has since also eclipsed Titanic in 2019, making $2.79 billion, over Titanic’s $2.20 billion)—but that was before streaming movies cut deeply into audience for movie theaters. The highest-grossing film so far this year was Top Gun: Maverick, at $718.32 million.

What To Watch For

Whether the long-awaited sequel will match other 2022 blockbusters over its opening weekend. Doctor Strange ($187 million) and Black Panther ($181 million) have had the two biggest opening weekends of the year.

Further Reading

China Will Allow ‘Avatar’ Sequel In Theaters—A Crucial Win For Massively Expensive Movie (Forbes)

Critics Call ‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ A ‘Grand Slam’ And ‘Hugely Entertaining’ Ahead Of Debut (Forbes)

Box Office: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Breathes in $53 Million Opening Day (Variety)