‘Avatar The Way Of Water’ Eyes $500 Million+ Global Box Office Opening – Deadline

And so it begins. Thirteen years later Avatar arrived in movie theaters, conquered and continued to conquer the global box office as the highest-grossing release of all time with $2.9 billion worldwide, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, the sequel to his triple-Oscar-winning 3D sci-fi movie arrives with a global outlook of $525M in what is Disney’s widest global release ever at 52K screens, surpassing Avengers: Endgame.

Broken out that’s $175M on the high end in US/Canada and $350M overseas. Some tracking has The Way of Water at $150M, and if the movie arrives at the low level, it’s not the end of the world. Read why further down. The offshore ticket sales are composed of $250M plus another $100M from China, always the variable market.

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Since Deadline first announced the screenwriting team for the sequels in 2013, the 20th Century Studios movie has survived a huge public merger in Disney’s takeover of Fox and a rotation of studio executives who shepherded the film. A great touch of irony is how Bob Iger, who orchestrated the Disney-Fox merger with the Avatar franchise being one of many spoils, recently returned as CEO of the Mouse House.

You’ll remember that Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home decimated its projections last year. Sony predicted that the domestic opening for the Marvel Studios title would be $130M, the town called it at $175M-$200M, and the movie came in at $260.1M. The global projection was $290M-$350M, and No Way Home landed at $600M. Could that happen here with Avatar: The Way of Water?

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If it does happen at the domestic box office, it’s because families and parents and older adults decided to walk up and break from holiday activities in a pre-Christmas corridor. Despite being hot on tracking throughout all demos, the comp for Avatar: The Way of Water, given its older-skewing fanbase, are legacy franchise sequels Top Gun: Maverick ($126.7M) and Jurassic World: Dominion ($145M), not the Marvel movies. No Way Home overindexed on its opening weekend given moviegoers’ FOMO on what was the most connective and expansive piece of the MCU since Avengers: Endgame. Avatar: The Way of Water will be appointment viewing, meaning moviegoers are going to want to see the movie under the best circumstances — read: format and choice of seats — and will wait if they need until after the rush to indulge in this 3-hour, 12-minute feature .

If anything, average ticket prices are going up Avatar: The Way of Water this weekend. Check out the average ticket price from last weekend vs. the various formats of the Cameron film, data from EnTelligence:

So if The Way of Water comes in at the low end, the expectation is that the movie will hold, which Cameron does like Avatar and Titanic has been known to do. The question is, to what degree? Can the sequel hold No. 1 beyond MLK weekend? Or will Gerard Butler’s Plane stand in its way? Word is Disney has a hold on big and premium auditoriums for the next five weekends. Arguably the next big movie on the calendar is, yup, Disney/Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania on February 17.

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Domestic presales for Avatar: The Way of Water stand at an estimated $38M through Monday, double that of Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion at the same point in time but behind Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which respectively opened to $181.3M and $187.4M. Seventy-four percent of the presales are for 3D showtimes, and 15% of those advance ticket sales are for showtimes outside of the opening weekend. The big chains are seeing a large proportion of advance sales in Imax but not at the level of Marvel movies — which is to be expected given the older adult nature of this property. It’s typically the fanboys who pre-purchase their tickets.

The percentage of 3D presales abroad is phenomenal, with Europe seeing 81%, Asia Pacific 70% and Latin America 65%.

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Thursday previews in US/Canada start at 3 pm The weekend’s 4,100-theater count is made up of 280 4D/Dbox venues, 85 Screen X, 400 Imax 3D auditoriums and 3,000 3D theaters. The review embargo just lifted following the Hollywood premiere Monday night and Rotten Tomatoes counts 81 reviews at 83% fresh. The original 2009 movie was 82% certified fresh.

The Way of Water begins its international rollout Wednesday in such majors as France, Korea, Germany and Italy, with some markets playing from midnight. China also is getting 3,000 preview showings at 7 pm local time Wednesday and Thursday each, ahead of its Friday bow. Through Friday, the entire overseas landscape will be covered, including 52 material markets (the sequel, for ongoing geopolitical reasons, will not be released in Russia).

RELATED: Original ‘Avatar’ To Be Rereleased In China From Monday Ahead Of ‘The Way Of Water’ Debut Later This Week

Following extended lockdowns and cinema closures, China has begun to open at a clip as the government moves away from its zero-Covid policies. About 80% of movie theaters are currently operating, although the level of comfort among audiences is unclear with virus outbreaks rising. We’re hearing there is concern about being in a closed space for three-plus hours now that restrictions have lifted. We’ll see if ticket prices become an issue as there’s chatter that exhibition is driving them up after such a long fallow period at the box office.

China presales have been robust with upwards of RMB 150M ($21.8M) through Sunday (Saturday’s are essentially flat with Friday’s, which is a rare phenomenon but does complicate estimates).

Anticipation is, well, titanic: Premieres were held Tuesday in Beijing and Shanghai, and social sentiment is high. Cameron is a rock star in China, and the movie employs technology developed there. Last year’s reissue of the original Avatar added $57.7M to its local tally which stands at $261.8M; this week’s promotional rerelease on just 80 screens was quiet but increased on the second day.

We will continue to monitor China throughout the weekend and will revise estimates as is our practice.

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In regards to overseas comps, there’s the first Avatar in its original release, which did $170M in like-for-likes; Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($294M); Spider-Man: No Way Home ($320M); and Avengers: Infinity War ($503M). All of those figures are at today’s rates, which have been hit hard by a strong dollar.

Among the top opening markets, we’re anticipating a mix of China, France, the UK, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Germany and Brazil. World Cup football could take a bite out of action Wednesday, when France meets Morocco. Depending on who ends up in Sunday’s final, some impact might also be felt.

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Cameron and Landau have been updating on the progress of Avatar 2 for months, and, along with cast, kicked off a global tour last week in London, where a photo call, press junket and conference were held ahead of the world premiere in Leicester Square on Tuesday night. They then traveled to Tokyo and Seoul.

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