James Cameron’s sequel Avatar: The Way Of Water is poised to revive the global box office from its current dry spell.
The anticipated blockbuster currently has an opening-weekend global outlook of a whopping $525 million, Deadline reported on Tuesday.
That’s significantly more just for the opening than some superhero films like Shang-Chi or Black Adam have earned to date, indicating massive interest from audience goers.
Cameron, who had to skip Monday night’s Hollywood premiere after testing positive for Covid-19, previously said in a GQ profile that Avatar: The Way Of Water would have to earn somewhere north of $2 billion just to break even on its $350–400 million budget and millions more spend on advertising and distribution.
Stunning haul: James Cameron’s sequel Avatar: The Way Of Water is expected to earn $525 million in its opening box office, Deadline reported on Tuesday; still from the film
The first Avatar film, which premiered in 2009, went on to make $2.9 billion.
A recent rerelease of the film with a 4K remaster and new high frame rate segments in some versions helped to earn another $75 million globally, while China will add to that total after rereleasing the film in theaters ahead of the sequel’s debut.
According to Deadline, The Way Of Water will have the widest global release ever for Disney (which owns 20th Century Studios). It plans to put out Avatar 2 on more than 52K screens, even more than Avengers: Endgame was released on.
The film is expected to earn around $175 million for its opening in the US and Canada, while overseas screenings may bring in an additional $350 million.
Among that $350 million figure, fully $100 million are expected to come from China, although unease over Covid cases and fatigue around the countries zero-Covid policies could affect that number.
Sky high: Cameron, 68, has previously said the film will need to earn over $2B total to break even. He was forced to sit out Monday’s Hollywood premiere after coming down with Covid-19; seen December 6 in London
Spread out: The film (pictured), which reportedly had a $350–400 million budget, plus millions more in advertising and distribution, is expected to earn $175M domestically and $350M internationally
Multiple pathways: Some outlets put the domestic opening at only $150M, although the film could still make a handsome profit if interest stays high for weeks to come; still from Avatar 2
The outlet notes disagreements among tracking estimates, with some suggesting that the movie might only bring in $150 million domestically.
However, that shouldn’t dash Disney’s hopes of breaking even — or making a handsome profit — as it may just signal that viewers are waiting to find the ideal screening, as premium formats are expected to be a major draw.
Deadline notes that Avatar 2 could also significantly exceed expectations, which Spider-Man: No Way Home did last year. The superhero flick was projected to gross $175–200 million, while Sony estimated it even lower with $130 million, but the movie ended up having a massive $260.1 million domestic opening.
Whether The Way Of Water can also exceed its already sky-high expectations largely depends on whether word of mouth is strong enough to get families to make unplanned trips to the theater to catch the film despite holiday plans.
Flying high: Avatar 2 could also blow past expectations based on strong reviews and word-of-mouth, just like Spider-Man: No Way Home (pictured) did in 2021
Fans were drawn to the latest Spider-Man film because of its connection to the wider Marvel universe and the return of former stars Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but viewers might also be drawn to Avatar 2 due to its reportedly stunning visuals and action-packed story.
The somewhat older fan base for Avatar is expected to behave more like viewers of the hit film Top Gun: Maverick, which stayed in theaters for months and has earned nearly $1.5 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.
Because of the technological advancements of Avatar 2, fans are likely to be picky about whether they see the film in a 4D/Dbox theater, an IMAX theater, a premium Dolby theater, or whether they stick with a standard 2D screening.
Previews will begin internationally starting on Wednesday, while preview screenings in the US and Canada will begin starting at 3 pm on Thursday.
Coming soon: International previews are starting as soon as Wednesday, while US and Canada screenings begin at 3 pm on Thursday; still from Avatar 2
Although the success of the Avatar rerelease 13 years after its initial release suggests there’s still plenty of interest in the franchise, Cameron and his collaborators are taking plenty of risks on the new film.
In addition to needing it to make a stunning amount of money to break even, they are also placing their hopes on 3D screenings, which have fallen out of favor in recent years.
‘It is a big bet,’ said Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro, to CNN.
He added that Avatar: The Way Of Water ‘is one of the hardest movies in quite a while,’ to predict the performance of, in ‘large part because of that 3D element.’
But viewers pay a premium for 3D screenings, so if they gravitate towards the format then it will pad the film’s bottom line.
Avatar 2 also appears to be booking many more 3D and other premium screens than the first film did, which could naturally usher viewers into more profitable theaters.
Big risk: Cameron is taking a chance by counting on 3D screenings, which have dwindled in recent years. However, viewers pay a higher ticket price for the premium format