James Cameron is back and better than ever. To the surprise of no one, Avatar: The Way of Water is the number one film of the week and has made $134 million domestically and over $484.9 million internationally. That’s incredible, but it falls below Disney’s expected $150M+ projections. Does it matter? Not really, because the film has already garnered multiple awards nominations at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards and will definitely get many Oscar nominations, which will likely give the film the legs it needs to reach $1 billion potentially. It’s a challenge since only two films made that coveted billion during the pandemic, but if you’re doubting James Cameron, then it’s time to reconsider.
But the opening weekend of The Way of Water is even better than the first Avatar, which only opened at $77 million when it was released over the holidays. But the word of mouth on the theatrical experience and the novelty of 3D (and its multiple award nominations) gave it massive box office legs, and it never stopped playing until April of 2010. Could this happen with the sequel? Maybe not, but it’s already a success by making more money than its predecessor on the opening weekend.
Aside from that, it was relatively quiet for other movies. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever surprisingly fell to third place, with $5.4 million, while Violent Night made $5.6 million. That seems decent, but Avatar: The Way of Water will be the true king of the Christmas box office this year. Families with small children will go see Puss in Boots: The Last Wish when it releases on Wednesday, over the holidays, and families with bigger children will flock to Avatar: The Way of Water during the break. It’s worth noting that, in most places, schools are not yet closed for the holidays. But when they do, I would expect The Way of Water and Puss in Boots to make lots of money.
Of course, there will be the last “Oscar buzz” films of the year like The Whale, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and Babylon getting released Wednesday or Friday in cinemas, and they could also bring people to the movies (The Whale is making a good amount of money in only six theatres!). However, you cannot dispute that Avatar: The Way of Water will be the true spectacle of the holiday season and will confidently give theatres the boost it needs after two hectic years with the COVID-19 pandemic. Small anecdote: Speaking with theater exhibitors for a podcast on the future of movie theatres after the pandemic, they were all very excited about the arrival of The Way of Water, which was already selling out in pre-sales. Just imagine how sold-out these theatres will be when schools close…I rest my case.
Here’s the complete list of the top ten films of the week
- Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney): $134M – 4,202 theatres
- Violent Night (Universal): $5.6M (-35.6%) – 3,528 theatres
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney): $5.4M (-51.9%) – 3,380 theatres
- Strange World (Disney): $2.2M (-41.8%) – 2,870 theatres
- The Menu (Disney): $1.7M (-38.6%) – 1,875 theatres
- Devotion (Sony): $825.000 (-59.3%) – 2,211 theatres
- The Fabelmans (Universal): $750.000 (-36%) – 955 theatres
- Black Adam (Warner Bros/DC): $500.000 (-62.4%) – 1,304 theatres
- I Heard the Bells (Fathom Events): $309.815 (-58.8%) – 426 theatres
- Empire of Light (Disney): $235.000 (+43.8%) – 436 theatres
Source: Box Office Mojo