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After several delays across 13 years, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” the sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time, has arrived in theaters, and it’s earned a solid $17 million in previews at the domestic box office.

James Cameron’s underwater “Avatar” follow-up is projected to make $150 million to $175 million in its opening weekend, which would rank as one of the biggest debuts of 2022. The power of Pandora may be no match for the might of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, as “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($185 million opening weekend) and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” ($181 million) are likely to retain the top domestic openings of the year.

Domestically, “The Way of Water” opens in 4,202 theaters Friday. Of the $17 million in previews, $2.63 million came from Imax 3D screenings. The film has bowed in a total of 44 international markets, where it has made $50.4 million so far, not including Chinese grosses. In China, it opened to $18.5 million and is projected to make $100 million in its opening weekend and pre-sales.

Back in 2009, the original “Avatar” opened to just $77 million, a decent start. But thanks to stellar word-of-mouth and pricey 3D tickets, the movie held the No. 1 spot for seven straight weeks and eventually ballooned to $760 million in North America and $2.92 billion worldwide.

“The Way of Water” hopes to replicate that kind of staying power. Repeat viewings and a clear holiday season should give the big-budget sequel the chance to grow its audience in the next few weeks. So far, Disney reported “The Way of Water” has sold $38 million in advance ticket sales, putting it above “Top Gun: Maverick” ($126 million opening) and “Jurassic World Dominion” ($145 million opening), but behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Cameron’s film looks to outpace “Thor: Love and Thunder” ($144 million opening) and “The Batman” ($134 million opening), the other top debuts of 2022.

“The Way of Water” cost a reported $350 million, and Cameron says it needs to reach stratospheric heights just to break even. With rave reviews and a resurgence of Pandora fever, “The Way of Water” has officially started to make the box-office climb.

VIP+ Analysis: Can ‘Way of Water’ Run Hotter Than Marvel?