Throughout the year, there’s been plenty about discussions online about what kind of reception Avatar: The Way of Water would have at the box office. Boosted by solid social media impressions and reviews but understandably putting some folks off because its three-hour runtime, all eyes have been on James Cameron’s long-awaited second outing to the world of Pandora and its blue cat people with dreadlocks.
In its opening weekend, The Way of Water is making waves. Per Deadline, the film’s made a worldwide opening of $435 million at time of writing, with the majority of that take coming from international audiences. Worldwide, it’s now the second-highest opening of the year, and the third-highest of the pandemic era. (First and second place respectively go to 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home and this past May’s Doctor Strange 2.) Stateside, it’s currently on track to net $134 million, which was on the fairly low end of projections by box office analysts.
Following the film’s strong opening numbers, Cameron posted a video on Twitter thanking audiences for seeing the film “as it was always meant to be seen.” In the lead up to Water, he’s been going out of his way to stress that this and its predecessor are big experiences worth going to the cinemas for. “For me, this film has been a deeply personal journey,” said Cameron. “It’s incredibly gratifying that already, so many of you have watched it on the big screen.”
Sites like Variety have noted that Cameron’s movies gain legs over time after having soft opens. Given that the film reportedly needs to make $2 billion to truly break even and ensure more sequels, those legs will be pretty important for the sequel. The good news is that it’s the holidays and there isn’t really much out yet at the moment that folks probably haven’t already seen once or twice—and Blumhouse’s M3GAN won’t take the world by storm until January 6, meaning the rest of the month belongs to the Na’vi.
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On the other hand, it’s the holidays, and that means it’s pretty dang cold out, if not actively snowing. Combined with that aforementioned three-hour runtime and concerns about the pandemic flaring up in earnest again, that may deter some from seeing the movie until it inevitably hits Disney+ in presumably February or March.
Update, 12/18/22 @ 4:20 ET: This post has been updated to add a video statement from director James Cameron.
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