James Cameron’s science-fiction epic “Avatar: The Way of Water,” a sequel 13 years in the making, delivered a dazzling $301 million in its international box office debut.

Of the 52 territories in play, China delivered the biggest start with $57.1 million, an underwhelming turnout given the original movie’s popularity in the country. Heading into the weekend, there were hopes that ticket sales could reach $100 million in China. However, COVID flare-up and theater closures have contributed to lackluster attendance.

Other top-earning markets include Korea with $24.7 million, Germany with $19.9 million, France with $19.3 million, India with $18.1 million, the United Kingdom with $14.2 million and Mexico with $12.9 million.

“The Way of Water” added $134 million at the domestic box office, bringing its global tally to $435 million. The international box office, where the first “Avatar” made a staggering $2 billion, will be key to the follow-up film’s financial success.

Around 67% of overseas ticket sales came from 3D, Imax and other premium formats. By comparison, those figures were closer to 27% for “Avengers: Endgame,” another box office behemoth. China was the top performing 3D market in the world, accounting for 99% of the country’s ticket sales.

“Just as the original ‘Avatar’ did, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has set a new benchmark for the current 3D marketplace.” said Travis Reid, CEO and President of RealD Cinema, the world’s largest 3D company. “James Cameron and his team have shown what is artistically, creatively, and commercially possible when you have filmmakers completely committed to immersing audiences in this 3D world and the result is visually mind blowing. We expect to continue to see strong 3D results worldwide through the holiday and new year.”

Disney, which holds the rights to “Avatar” after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, needs audiences to keep shelling out for pricey premium screens through the holiday season. That’s because “The Way of Water” cost at least $350 million to produce and many millions more to market. Cameron estimates it needs to become one of the top-grossing releases in history to break even and justify its massive price tag.

Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver returned for “The Way of Water,” which follows the Sully family underwater as they battle the elements to stay alive and keep each other safe. Even with stratospheric expectations, critics have been receptive to the movie, which holds an 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. In Variety’s review, chief film critic Owen Gleiberman praised the director’s vision, writing “Cameron, a four-decade veteran of bravura action logistics, has lost none of his mojo.”