Moviegoers are pretty psyched to return to Pandora.
“Avatar: The Way of Water,” James Cameron’s next epic adventure, is poised to open to at least $150 million domestically when it debuts in theaters in December. Early tracking indicates that opening weekend figure could fly even higher, reaching $175 million or more. “Avatar: The Way of Water” has been in the works for years, with Cameron blowing past several deadlines and release dates with his drive to push technology and cinematic gadgetry to the limits.
The first “Avatar” opened to $77 million back in 2009 (worth noting, however, that there was a major snow storm in the U.S. that weekend, which muted grosses). It went on to build and build, becoming a box office phenomenon thanks to its innovative use of 3D. “Avatar” ultimately grossed $2.7 billion globally. That figure will be hard to match post-COVID with the box office still struggling to rebound and major markets like Russia closed to Hollywood.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” did get a boost this week when it was announced that it would open simultaneously in China. That market has been difficult to penetrate for studios. Government regulators have handed Hollywood films unpalatable release dates in recent years in an effort to grow the country’s filmmaking economy and as political tensions have increased with the U.S.
Cameron made it clear that “Avatar 2” comes with a big price tag, so it needs all the help it can get. In an interview with GQ, Cameron called it “the worst business case in movie history” and said “you have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” will try to exceed that threshold when it opens in theaters Dec. 16.