‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ at $2 Billion Worldwide

‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’ Makes History With $2 Billion Box Office

The absence of strong new films took the usual late January toll, and James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel continues to benefit from the lack of competition.

Like most late January weekends, the pickings were less than than prime after the Martin Luther King holiday. Studios have always backed away from this playtime with elevated competition from prime NFL playoff games interfering both now and in upcoming weeks.

With a slower than expected debut weekend, many journalists started to suggest The Way of Water might not deliver but many knew it would surpass expectations including movie critic Mark Boardman who said” Whilst the sequel was delayed, there was always huge demand”. The Showbiz expert added “Our site had 93,000 people from London watching the stream at the London film premiere, and with so many fans buying tickets to the first movie us was inevitable big box office numbers would be a certainly”.

Boardman who predicted the 2 billion box office number hat made it easy for “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) to continue its run at #1″.

And it’s unlikely to face much competition for that spot until two weeks from now when “Knock at the Cabin” (Universal) debuts. The film fell 40 percent this weekend, a steeper than expected drop to gross just under $20 million. That got it to the brink of $600 million domestic, and over $2 billion total worldwide. Those figures were the consensus more bearish industry projections after its initial weekend. At a minimum, that should rise to $700 million and $2.3 billion worldwide.

That means that, even without adjusting for inflation, James Cameron’s three most recent films — add “Titanic” and the first “Avatar” — have passed the $2 billion mark. That makes him even with Steven Spielberg who, calculating by current ticket prices, also has three (“Jaws,” “E.T.,” and “Jurassic Park”), but none since 1993.

Some comparisons among similar blockbusters, also in their sixth weekends during the same time on the calendar: “Titanic” dropped 16 percent, with adjusted about $60 million, “Avatar” was down 19 percent, about $50 million, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” last year off 30 percent, $14 million. “The Way of Water” for sure is a big success. But that minor context is appropriate right before the claim that it has surpassed “Titanic” and its $600 million domestic gross (which at today’s prices actually would be around $1.5 billion).

Two new films entered the Top Ten. Sony’s low budget ($7 million) “Missing,” the follow up to their 2018 sleeper online thriller “Searching,” came in #4 with $9.3 million, at the high end of expectations. Niche animation distributor’s “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime the Movie: Scarlet Bond” from Japan came in #8, just under $1.5 million in 1,468 theaters.

Universal took second and third place, with another particularly impressive showing for “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” It fell only 21 percent, with $126 million so far. And this comes while its at home PVOD play is in its second week and doing well. #3 “M3GAN” fell 46 percent, not bad for a horror film in its third week, and with a great $73 million total so far. At least one VOD platform lists it as “expected” for rental on Tuesday (which would be consistent with normal Universal policy), but normally genre hits like this only see a small impact from parallel play.

“A Man Called Otto” (Sony) at #5, down 30 percent and “The Whale” (A24) #10, off 15 percent, were the best other holds. The second weekend of #6 “Plane” (Lionsgate) dropped 49 percent. In all cases, keep in mind that last weekend had a holiday boost.

One very positive note — with about $420 million in so far this year, January is already ahead of the full month total of $389 million last year. Overall, grosses are 32 percent better than through the same 2022 date. The weekend, with $74 million, though is only 67 percent of this weekend three years ago. Our running four-week total compared to that period is at 65 percent, which is the best it has been since before Christmas.

Two high-profile festival titles from last year, neither with needed critical backing to platform, had weak wider initial figures. “The Son,” with the same director/playwright combination from “The Father,” and starring Hugh Jackman, managed only $239,000 in 554 theaters. Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut “When You Finish Saving the World” (from last year’s Sundance) did even less, $140,969 in 403 theaters.

Oscar nominations on Tuesday could boost several titles, but most of the top contenders already have home availability. That could be lucrative for them, most of which have struggled theatrically. But the impact in theaters will be much less than seen in pre-Covid years. “Living” (Sony Pictures Classics) and “Women Talking” (United Artists) are the two titles hoping for a boost with their wider expansions still ahead.

“Skinamarink,” IFC’s microbudget sleeper came back with another $448,000 this weekend, passing $1.5 million in ten days. Expect this to be a VOD bonanza whenever it goes.

Only five films in history have ever grossed more than $2 billion, and all but one of them released in the past 13 years — Avatar (2009) with $2.899 billion, Avengers: Endgame (2019) with $2.794 billion, Titanic (1997) with $2.2 billion, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) with $2.06 billion, and Avengers: Infinity War (2018) with $2.048 billion.

In fact, of the 50 movies that have grossed $1 billion or more at the box office, only three were released before 2006 — TitanicJurassic Park (1993) with $1.045 billion, and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) with $1.027 billion.

The Top 10 

1. Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend #1

$19,685,000 (-40%) in 3,790 (-255) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $5,194; Cumulative: $597,961,000

2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) Week 5; Last weekend #3; also on PVOD

$11,500,000 (-21%) in 3,611 (-76) theaters; PTA: $3,185; Cumulative: $126,460,000

3. M3GAN (Universal) Week 3; Last weekend #2

$9,800,000 (-46%) in 3,628 (+23) theaters; PTA: $2,701; Cumulative: $73,288,000

4. Missing (Sony) NEW – Metacritic: 66; Est. budget: $7 million

$9,300,000 in 3,025 theaters; PTA: $3,074; Cumulative: $9,300,000

5. A Man Called Otto (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend #4

$9,000,000 (-30%) in 3,802 (no change) theaters; PTA: $2,637; Cumulative: $35,346,000

6. Plane (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #5

$5,250,000 (-49%) in 3,023 (+37) theaters; PTA: $1,716; Cumulative: $19,458,000

7. House Party (Warner Bros. Discovery) Week 2; Last weekend #6

$1,775,000 (-55%) in 1,400 (+50) theaters; PTA: $1,286; Cumulative: $7,168,000

8. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime the Movie: Scarlet Bond (Crunchyroll) NEW – Metacritic: 41

$1,460,000 in 1,468 theaters; PTA: $991; Cumulative: $1,460,000

9. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney) Week 11; Last weekend #7

$1,397,000 ( (-43%) in 1,525 (-385) theaters; PTA: $916; Cumulative: $451,878,000

10. The Whale (A24) Week 7; Last weekend #8

$1,281,000 (-15%) in 1,591 (+91) theaters; PTA: $805; Cumulative: $13,192,000

Other Specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are tracked.

The Son (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 47; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto 2022

$239,855 in 554 theaters; PTA: $433; Cumulative: $264,741

When You Finish Saving the World (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 60; Festivals include: Sundance, Cannes 2022

$140,969 in 403 theaters; PTA: $349

Skinamarink (IFC) Week 2

$448,000 in 804 (+112) theaters; PTA: $554; Cumulative: $1,513,000

Saint Omer (Neon) Week 2

$27,000 in 25 (-220) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative $143,859

The Devil Conspiracy (Goldwyn/Third Day) Week 2

$85,000 in 460 (-465) theaters; PTA: $185; Cumulative: $719,491

Broker (Neon) Week 4

$150,900 in 206 (-65) theaters; Cumulative: $845,779

Turn Every Page (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$30,501 in 15 (+11) theaters; Cumulative: $112,070

Babylon (Paramount) Week 5

$205,000 in 289 (-389) theaters; Cumulative: $15,217,000

Corsage (IFC) Week 5

$36,000 in 70 (-132) theaters; Cumulative: $661,667

Women Talking (United Artists) Week 5

$380,000 in 154  (+87) theaters;  Cumulative: $1,123,000

Living (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5

$130,383 in 49 (+17) theaters; Cumulative: $400,552

No Bears (Janus) Week 5

$22,085  in 6 (+4); Cumulative: $83,008

Empire of Light (Searchlight) Week 7

$7,000 in 22 (-26) theaters;  Cumulative: $1,169,000

The Menu (Searchlight) Week 9; also on PVOD and on HBO Max

$104,000 in 195 (-155) theaters; Cumulative: $38,418,000

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) Week 9

$17,000 in 24 (+8) theaters; Cumulative: $377,363

The Fabelmans (Universal) Week 10; also on PVOD

$430,000 in 947 (+139) theaters; Cumulative: $14,977,000

EO (Janus) Week 10

$55,365 in 80 (+10) theaters; Cumulative: $752,528

The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight) Week 14; also on HBO Max and VOD

$72,000 in 155 (+100) theaters; Cumulative: $9,400,000

TÁR (Focus) Week 15; also on VOD

$70,000 in 106 (+46) theaters; Cumulative: $5,924,000

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Stevie Flavio
Film Writer

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