The global theatrical release of the long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” was not quite as successful as many expected.
Nevertheless, James Cameron’s bombastic water spectacle revived the box office on the premiere weekend. According to estimates by the studio, “Avatar 2” grossed $134 million in North American theaters (approx. EUR 126.3 million) and $300.5 million (approx. EUR 283.4 million) internationally, thus reaching a worldwide debut of $434.5 million.
The film shares fourth place with “The Batman” in the ranking of the best theatrical releases of 2022. The Marvel films “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (187.4 million), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” ( 181), and “Thor: Love and Thunder” (144.2) started much better this year.
Actually not a bad result, the 134 million are still seen as a disappointment in the industry. Optimistic forecasts reckoned with 150 to 170 million at the start. But apparently the pandemic has also shattered some certainties in the cinema industry.
Disney probably knew that the forecasts were too high and is much more focused on long-term revenue from the film. “We have a great film that will appeal to all walks of life and benefit from word of mouth,” said Tony Chambers Walt Disney Co. “We have the screens and the staying power. This isn’t about opening day or opening weekend. It’s about the whole Duration”.
The film premiered in North America last Thursday evening and will be shown there in 4,202 theaters on more than 12,000 screens, including 400 in IMAX 3D. The studio and filmmakers are capitalizing on the appeal and higher prices of the 3D format and premium large screens.
An estimated 66% of opening weekend’s $435 million in revenue came from global 3D ticket sales. More than $48.8 million of total earnings came from IMAX theaters alone (1,543 across 80 markets), the company’s second-biggest weekend.
“As excited as we are by these early results, we look forward to a long and fruitful journey from Avatar 2,” said Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX.
Outside of North America, the numbers are relatively better. The 434.5 million US dollars make “Avatar 2” the second most successful start of the cinema year. Here, too, “Doctor Strange” is ahead with 442 million. The global figures are all the more remarkable as the strongest international market was disappointing. In China, “Avatar 2” was below average at $57.1 million. The corona pandemic is to blame, which continues to cause cinemas to close there.
In Germany, “Avatar 2” started with the best numbers since the corona pandemic. 1.3 million viewers have seen the film since it opened in theaters on December 14, generating $19.9 million in sales. After North America, China and South Korea (24.7 million dollars), Germany is the fourth largest market in the world for “Avatar 2”.
As with many ambitious Cameron projects, from Titanic to the first Avatar, nerves were frayed for the costly sequel, one of the most expensive of all time, which went into production five years ago.
The film has been repeatedly delayed and survived The Walt Disney Co’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019. It is just one of four Avatar sequels that Cameron is planning. The shooting of the third film, which was shot at the same time as “Avatar 2”, has been completed. The cinema release is expected in December 2024.