Box Office: ‘Avatar 2’ Opens to $134M, Behind Expectations But Still Sizable – Hollywood Reporter

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James Cameron’s big-budget tentpole will need strong legs in North America over the year-end holidays. Globally, it launched to $435 million.
By Pamela McClintock
Senior Film Writer
James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water topped the domestic box office with an estimated $134 million opening, less than expected but still a sizable number as the film heads into the merriest corridor of the year in terms of moviegoing.
Even rival studios believe Avatar 2 will have robust legs over the holidays and into 2023, thanks to an A CinemaScore and strong audience exit scores. Traditionally, weekdays can be like a Saturday between now and the new year. Distribution sources also say advance ticket sales are spread into this week, versus being front-loaded.

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Overseas, the 3D tentpole debuted to $301 million for a global start of $435 million, among the best showings of the pandemic era. From Disney and 20th Century, The Way of Water cost $350 million-$400 million to produce, making it one of the most expensive pics in modern Hollywood history. In earlier interviews promoting the sequel, Cameron indicated it would need to gross in the $2 billion range to be considered a success.
Heading into the weekend, tracking suggested the movie’s launch would be $150 million to $175 million domestically and $450 million to $550 million globally. Overseas, the movie received a coveted day-and-date release in China, although a COVID-19 outbreak is having a major impact on the box office in that country. The Way of Water opened to $57.1 million in the Middle Kingdom; it had hoped to clear $100 million.
Another major challenge: The film’s running time is a hefty three hours and 12 minutes, resulting in fewer showtimes. (At the same time, it faces almost no competition.)
On the flip side, The Way of Water opened notably ahead of the $77 million domestic debut of the first Avatar in December 2009. The groundbreaking film, with a runtime of two hours and 41 minutes, went on to become the top-grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office with $2.92 billion-plus in ticket sales, including rereleases. Avatar‘s performance underscores why December titles can be more about playability than the size of the opening.
Outside of superhero fare, The Way of Water is among only a few Hollywood films that have opened north of $100 million since COVID-19 struck. Another is Tom Cruise blockbuster Top: Gun Maverick, which debuted to $126.7 million earlier this year domestically on its way to amassing a staggering $1.49 billion worldwide.

The Way of Water did enormous business on Imax and premium format screens. And globally, 66 percent of all moviegoers saw the film in 3D, whether in premium cinemas or on traditional 3D screens (in China, virtually all moviegoers saw the film were in 3D). The movie is a huge boon for the format — which has dropped off dramatically in terms of popularity — and companies such as RealD.
Imax cinemas in 80 markets delivered a huge $48.8 million of the overall global gross of $435 million.
Speaking of the global opening, The Way of Water secured the third-biggest worldwide launch of the pandemic era. When comparing like-for-like markets, the movie’s $301 million international opening clocked in 82 percent ahead of Top Gun: Maverick, 42 percent ahead of Jurassic World: Dominion, 78 percent of Avatar and just 24 percent behind Spider-Man: No Way Home.
“Thank you to all of who have already taken the journey back to Pandora,” Cameron tweeted Sunday afternoon.
Added Disney distribution chief Tony Chambers in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “we’ve got a great movie, we have great word of mouth and we’ve got a clear runway ahead of us.”
Cameron produced The Way of Water alongside his longtime Lightstorm partner Jon Landau. The movie stars Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang, and once again centers on Worthington’s Sully and Saldaña’s Na’vi character, Neytiri. It picks up a decade after the original and follows their family, with additional stars including franchise newcomer Kate Winslet.

In North America, The Way of Water sparked interest across all age groups but did skew male (57 percent).
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