The opening weekend for Avatar: The Way of Water wasn’t very strong, but it might not be a terrible sign. The movie debuted in theatres on December 16 and is the much-anticipated sequel to James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster Avatar, which shot to the top of the box office upon its first release. This follow-up, which has a price tag of around $460 million before accounting for marketing expenses, has to become one of the highest-grossing movies of all time just to break even.
Avatar: The Way of Water’s opening weekend is expected to be close to $135 million, which is much less than the $150 million initial forecasts, which were already below expectations. It will fall behind higher-grossing franchise movies like Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and Spider-Man: No Way Home (which led the pack with $260.1 million). It won’t even make it into the domestic Top 5 December box office openings. The next greatest hold is Rogue One at 35%, while Avatar 2’s Friday to Saturday hold is a decline of only 15%, beating all those titles by a significant margin.
The box office for Avatar: The Way of Water will be tested in early 2023
The success of Avatar: The Way of Water at the box office will determine the fate of the Avatar franchise. Cameron is now filming Avatar 3 with The Way of Water with an eye on a Christmas 2024 release. Cameron has long promised three further sequels. But if Avatar 2 does poorly at the box office, it appears likely that Avatar 3 will fare much worse, leading to the cancellation of Avatar 4 and Avatar 5.
On the overall size of this expensive sequel, its opening weekend isn’t exactly outstanding. Avatar: The Way of Water has already made one of the top ten global box office debuts of 2022, but it will be incredibly difficult for it to surpass the year’s top picture, the legacy sequel Top Gun: Maverick. Given how late in the year the movie was released, this isn’t the worst news, but it appears quite probable that the movie’s best chance of exceeding its box office target will occur in January 2023.
A succession of steady weekends rather than a sharp increase is more likely to result from the strong grip that Avatar: The Way of Water has already demonstrated and the fact that many viewers will want to watch it in 3D and premium formats. Because of this, it’s more likely to rank among the highest-grossing movies of 2022 and 2023 as opposed to being the highest-grossing movie of either year. It also won’t have much competition in the next month since it can easily attract viewers who aren’t interested in the only two wide-release movies in January, the comedy remake House Party and the Blumhouse killer doll movie M3GAN.