Avatar: The Way of Water is a 2022 American epic science fiction film directed by James Cameron from a screenplay he co-wrote with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, with a story the trio wrote with Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno. Produced by Lightstorm Entertainment and TSG Entertainment, and distributed by 20th Century Studios, it is the sequel to Avatar (2009) and the second film in the Avatar franchise. Cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi, Dileep Rao, and Matt Gerald reprise their roles from the original film, with Sigourney Weaver returning in a different role. New cast members include Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco and Jemaine Clement. In the film, Jake Sully (Worthington) and his family explore the oceans of Pandora to meet the Metkayina clan.
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James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water topped Friday with a sizable $53 million — the director’s biggest opening day — for a domestic debut in the $130 million to $150 million range.
Box office analysts stress that modeling has become more difficult in the pandemic era. And even staunch rivals believe Avatar 2 will have incredibly robust legs, even if the opening weekend comes in at $130 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Overseas, the movie has grossed $127.1 million in its first three days for an early global haul of $180.1 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). And the 3D tentpole is seeing a huge share of its business come from Imax and other premium large format screens, meaning that some consumers don’t want to pay an upcharge for a premium or 3D experience (to be clear, it is also available in digital 2D).
Either way, The Way of Water is opening notably ahead of the $77 million domestic debut of the first Avatar in December 2009. The groundbreaking film went on to become the top-grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office with $2.92 billion-plus in ticket sales.
If early projections are right, Avatar 2 will open in the same range as Tom Cruise blockbuster Top: Gun Maverick, which debuted to $126.7 million domestically yet went on to amass a staggering $1.49 billion worldwide.
Disney, home of the film’s 20th Century Studios, stresses that the sequel’s success depends more on its long-term playability, versus a huge opening number, and note the movie’s glowing exit scores and A CinemaScore (2009’s Avatar likewise earned an A). Distribution sources also say advance ticket sales are spread out over the weekend and into Christmas week, versus being front-loaded.
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.
Avatar: The Way of Water cost $350 million-$400 million to produce (sources say it is on the higher end). In earlier interviews promoting the sequel, Cameron indicated it would need to gross in the $2 billion range to be considered a success.
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Sources: Hollywood Reporter.
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