‘Avatar 2’ Needs to Become a Box Office Juggernaut.
Director James Cameron has explained the interest for his long-delayed sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. The sci-fi epic is so expensive, he says, that it represents the “worst business case in the history of cinema,” meaning it would have to become one of the top three or four highest-grossing films of all time to break even.
By that measure, “The Way of Water” needs $2 billion to justify its price tag and appeal to Disney, which owns the rights to “Avatar” after buying 20th Century Fox in 2019. The studio spent $350 million. producing and even more marketing a great return to Pandora, making it one of the most expensive tents of all time.
Only five films in history — 2009’s Avatar ($2.9 billion worldwide), Avengers: Endgame ($2.7 billion), Titanic ($2.1 billion), Star Wars: The Force Awakens ” ( $2.07 billion) and “The Avengers” “: Infinity War ” ($2.05 billion) – crossed the $2 billion mark and were in great shape. It is much more difficult during a pandemic. Even if “The Way of Water” is the sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time, is it good enough for sixth?
“Avatar: Waterway” debuted to $13 million in North America and $ 35 million worldwide over the weekend, a solid start despite falling short of expectations. It is the third biggest worldwide opening weekend behind the pandemonium of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($ 2 million worldwide) and Spider-Man: No Way Home ($600 million worldwide). However, only one of those films, The Spidey Adventure, managed to cross the billion dollar mark with $1.9 billion worldwide. Even with a hot debut and impressive legs, “No Way Home” could not conquer the 2 billion dollar club. And only two other hits from the COVID era, “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World Dominion,” had enough staying power to reach $1 billion.
“James Cameron is setting the bar so high for himself,” says comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian, who believes Hollywood is too used to Marvel-sized opening weekends. Unlike superhero adventures, which often start strong ($180-200 million typically) and fall off sharply in the second weekend, “Avatar” doesn’t have the kind of spoiler warnings that demand you see it as soon as possible. Yes, industry experts expected “Waterway” to take off more. But Dergarabedian says focusing on the film’s domestic debut “misses the point of Cameron’s entire career. It’s never been an opening weekend for him.
” He says Cameron’s biggest films, Avatar and Titanic, started off slower at the box office and built huge audiences over time. The first Avatar opened to a decent, but 77 million USD domestically, hardly dazzling. more than ten years ago. But thanks to expensive 3D tickets and repeat viewings, the film managed to attract audiences for months, eventually grossing $760 million in North America and more than $2 billion internationally. “Titanic” also failed to break records with its $28 million gross when it debuted in 1997. However, the romantic disaster story had unmatched staying power and became the first film to cross the $1 billion mark.
Cameron tends to play the long game at the box office. As for “Avatar 2,” it’s hard to gauge its potential until it’s been in theaters for a few weeks. However, “The way of water” debuts in a completely different cinema landscape, which has been affected by the pandemic. Audiences remained picky and to make matters worse, the major foreign box office was reduced by COVID. Box office experts are confident that the sequel will at least cross the $1 billion mark, although the total is expected to approach $1.5 billion or more. “The film’s second weekend earnings give a strong indication of what’s to come,” says Dergarabedian. “The third, fourth, fifth weekend is key.” Even with strong legs, “The Way of Water” is unlikely to follow the pattern of its predecessor, which ended its opening weekend almost 10 times. Industry insiders believe the follow-up will make four times its opening weekend sales, which would push the domestic gross to around $536 million to $600 million. Of course, the bottom line could be higher or lower depending on repeat business and word of mouth.
“Avatar: The Path of Water” was well reviewed, but it hardly hit the charming, must-see notes that made the original so sensational. Some ticket buyers have waited 13 long, hard years for the return to Pandora, and others may feel a cultural obligation to hunt down the Na’vi based on the pedigree of the first film. But the average moviegoer, who might not have gone to see “Top Gun: Maverick” without the inevitable jump, must feel that “The Way of Water” must be seen on the big screen. Time seems to be in favor of the film. At the end of the year, there is almost zero competition and the upcoming Christmas season is usually the busiest time to go for the channel package. Analysts expect the film to receive huge numbers during the week. And like the original, “Avatar 2” comes with more expensive Imax and 3D tickets. “Film is having a very strong holiday season,” said David A. Gross, who heads the film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.
However, the film has several major hurdles, including a running time of three hours and 12 minutes. Will moviegoers have the stamina for three, four or even five viewings? It’s also not showing in Russia, where the original film grossed $116 million, and while Chinese theaters have access to the film, the country’s box office has struggled. In its first weekend, “Avatar 2” earned $57.1 million in China, well below expectations. The international box office is made or broken as the film strives to reach $2 billion.
Cameron needs The Way of Water to work because it is the first of three planned sequels in the sprawling futuristic franchise. However, it will take time to find out if the audience wants to return to Pandora.