Japan Box Office: ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Opens in Second Place Despite Country’s Widest Ever Release

James Cameron on the set of "Avatar: The Way of Water”
Courtesy of Twentieth Century/Disney

Avatar: The Way of Water” got a lukewarm reception for its opening at the Japanese box office. It may also have been plagued by technical glitches.

Despite bowing on 1,466 screens nationwide, an all-time record for the Japanese film market, “Avatar 2” was unable to claim the top ranking over the Dec. 17-18 weekend in the local box office rankings. It earned $3.6 million from 259,000 admissions, according to data from Kyogyo Tsushin. Including previews, its three-day opening total was $3.9 million.  

The previous widest release was for Sony Pictures’ “The Amazing Spider-Man” which debuted on 1,092 screens in 2012.

The top film over the weekend was the anime picture “The First Slam Dunk,” based on an enduringly popular comic about basketball. It pulled in $4.13 million on 365,000 admissions over the weekend, to hold onto the number one slot for the third straight weekend.  

The Shinkai Makoto anime smash “Suzume” earned $3.13 million from 316,000 admissions. Japanese charts rank films according to ticket sales, not gross revenues, and show “Suzume” in second place, ahead of “Avatar 2” in third. The weekend business brought the cumulative total for “Suzume” to some $70 million from 6,939,0000 admissions.    

Japanese social media carried reports of projection woes at theaters screening “Avatar 2,” with some giving refunds to disappointed fans. One theater in Nagoya in central Japan reportedly reduced the frame rate from 48-per-second to the traditional 24 fps. Financial news agency Bloomberg also reported on the film’s alleged technical problems at three theater chains, United Cinemas, Toho Co. and Tokyu Cinemas. Distributor Walt Disney Japan has yet to issue a statement.

The film is being released on a wide variety of formats in Japan. These include regular 2D screenings to Dolby Cinema, Atmos 3D, Imax 3D, RealD, 4DX, and ScreenX.