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‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ Nearly Doubles Avatar’s Opening Box Office Numbers


Released in 2009, James Cameron’s “Avatar” still remains as the highest grossing film of all time. For the first time ever, audiences were amazed at Cameron’s world of Pandora with groundbreaking ‘motion-capture’ technology & never before seen 3D visuals. After the mammoth success of “Avatar,” cinema lovers all around the world flocked to the theaters when the sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” was finally released this Friday, 13 years after the original. 

“Avatar: The Way of Water” opened with a whopping $441.7 Million in worldwide collections, and it is already the 10th highest grossing film of this year worldwide. This is the second highest worldwide opening of this year, only behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”($452 Million). “Avatar: The Way of Water” was released in 4202 theaters, 12000 screens including 407 IMAX screens in the U.S., and opened at $134.1 Million in domestic box office collections. As the Avatar franchise is intended for big screen experience, cinephiles around the world preferred to watch this epic underwater spectacle on premium screens. Thus 66% of $441 Million worldwide collection, and $48.8 Million out of $134.1 Million domestic collection are from IMAX screens. After a really long time, a Hollywood blockbuster was allowed to release in Mainland China, and the film collected $57 Million, out of which $15.8 Million (27% of total collection) was from 735 IMAX screens. 

The film’s $134 Million domestic opening is the 37th best opening weekend of all time and 5th best opening of 2022. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” leads the chart, closely followed by another Marvel tenpole “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”.

FilmDomestic opening (in Million USD)
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness187.4
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever181.3
Jurassic World Dominion145
Thor: Love and Thunder144
Avatar: The Way of Water 134.1
The Batman134
Top Gun Maverick126.7

Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” was released with no real competition in the domestic box office, and easily topped the weekend chart, & is probably going to stay at No. 1 spot for a really long time. Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” did manage to secure the 2nd spot but couldn’t give any competition as its theatrical run is almost coming to an end. Animated movie “Strange World” and Oscar seeking “The Menu” managed to get into the top 5 in this weekend’s rankings.

RankFilmBox Office for this weekend
1Avatar: The Way of Water $134 Million
2Black Panther: Wakanda Forever$5.3 Million
3Violent Night$5.1 Million
4Strange World$2.2 Million
5The Menu$1.6 Million

In India, “Avatar: The Way of Water” saw massive ticket sales, raking in 41 crores of Nett collection on the opening day. This is the 2nd highest opening day collection for a Hollywood movie in India. The 2nd and 3rd day brought in 42 crores, and 46 crores respectively, making it a stunning 129 crores of total opening weekend collection in India.

Hollywood FilmOpening day in India
Avengers Endgame53.1 crores
Avatar: The Way of Water 41 crores
Spider-Man No Way Home32.67 crores
Avengers Infinity War31.30 crores
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness27.50 crores

Out of all the December releases in the U.S, “Avatar: The Way of Water” has the 6th highest opening of all time. Last December’s “Spider-Man No Way Home” leads the chart, followed by the Disney era Star Wars films.

Films released in DecemberOpening weekend Box office
Spider-Man No Way Home$260 Million
Star Wars: The Force Awakens$247 Million
Star Wars: The Last Jedi$220 Million
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker$177 Million
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story$155 Million
Avatar: The Way of Water $134 Million

If we observe the opening weekend numbers of all James Cameron films, we will find “Avatar: The way of water” topping the list even after the old films are adjusted for inflation.

James Cameron moviesOpening Weekend Box officeAdjusted for inflation
Avatar: The Way of Water $134.1 Million$134.1 Million
Avatar$77 Million$106.8 Million
Terminator 2$31.76 Million$69.4 Million
Titanic$28.63 Million$53.1 Million
True Lies$25.86 Million$51.9 Million

From all the numbers I have presented in front of you so far, it seems like “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a major hit at the box office. But there’s more than meets the eye. Before any movie releases (especially the big budget ones), opening weekend box office numbers are projected by various industry experts and outlets, with the help of advanced ticket booking data & various other technical aspects. They have been doing this for decades and most of the time they are dead accurate or at the very least close to the actual numbers. “Avatar: The Way of Water” reportedly has a budget of somewhere between $350 Million to $400 Million (not including advertising and marketing expenses). Some sources even reported the budget to be around $460 Million, which makes it the most expensive film of all time. This movie has to make almost a billion dollars to just break even. Having most of the screenings in 3D, a strongly recognized IP, and with no real competition at the box office, industry experts were projecting a $200 Million domestic opening. The more modest projections were somewhere between $150 Million to $175 Million. But “Avatar: The Way of Water” could not even reach that number and ended up with just $134 Million. In China, where the movie was projected to open at $100 Million, but opened with just $57 Million. The Worldwide opening is $441 Million, where it was $550 Million when initially projected.

The reasons for it to fail the industry estimates might have to do with the fact that the film is very long (3 hours 12 minutes to be exact), and this restricts how many shows you can screen in a given day. Another reason might be that people are very choosy about the best seats at the biggest possible screen for this particular visual masterpiece film. That’s why they would rather wait than watch it in any random theater. The china numbers came in low might have to do with the fact that Covid-19 is again surging in that country. So, does this mean “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a box office failure? Absolutely not!! We think the opening is low because we are used to huge box office openings of Marvel films several times each year. But we have to keep in mind that Marvel movies are usually front loaded because of spoiler heavy nature. If we take the most recent example of “Top Gun Maverick, it’s not even in the top 5 list of best openings of this year, yet it is the highest grossing film of 2022. Whereas none of those Marvel films could reach the billion-dollar mark even with such a strong opening. 

Non-Marvel blockbusters usually have strong legs. If we see the first “Avatar,” it opened with only $77 Million, but it didn’t fall sharply like the Marvel films and now it is the highest grossing film of all time. We are living in a time where even the biggest of movies fall 55%-65% on their second weekend, but the hold of “Avatar” was something that was never witnessed before and it was No.1 film at the domestic box office for 7 weeks in a row. 


Now if we see the first Friday to Saturday drop for “Avatar: The Way of Water,” it dropped only 16%, “Top Gun Maverick” dropped only 27%, whereas blockbusters released in December, like the Star Wars sequel trilogy, dropped significantly higher.

Films released in DecemberFriday to Saturday drop
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker-47%
Star Wars: The Force Awakens-43%
Spider-Man No Way Home-39%
Star Wars: The Last Jedi-39%
Rogue One : A Star Wars Story-35%
Avatar: The Way of Water -16%

“Avatar” opened with only $77 Million but went on to become the highest grossing film of all time, and Cameron’s “Titanic” opened with just $28 Million, but it became the highest grossing movie at that time. “Avatar: The Way of Water” will have no real competition till “Ant Man Quantum Mania” comes out in February. Also, with the Christmas & New Year holidays coming, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is showing similar strong legs and a long journey at the box office like “Avatar” and “Titanic.” Do I suggest another $2 Billion collection? No!! It’s too early to tell, but I do believe in the saying “Never bet against Cameron.”

See more: Golden Globes 2022: Nominations And Predictions – Who Can Win The Award This Year?

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Rounak Mahato
Rounak Mahato
Rounak keeps a keen eye on the box office performance of newly released Hollywood and Indian films. Keeping track of those numbers helps him compare the performances of the films with their predecessors or competitors. Rounak also holds a degree in electronics and communication engineering.

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