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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Dominating New Year’s Weekend Box Office With Projected $87 Million Holiday Haul

(L-R): Tsireya (Bailey Bass), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo'ak (Britain Dalton), and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in 20th Century Studios' AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Avatar: The Way of Water” is closing out 2022 on a high note.

James Cameron’s ambitious and mega-expensive return to Pandora dominated the Friday box office, earning $24.4 million to push its domestic total to $382.6 million. The film is on track to gross $66.8 million this weekend or $87.8 million over the four-day holiday (most businesses are giving Monday off because New Year’s falls on Sunday).

By the time the long weekend is over, “Avatar: The Way of Water” may have sailed to more than $445 million, overtaking “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” as the second highest-grossing domestic release of 2022. Disney produced both movies — the company acquired the rights to “Avatar” as part of its purchase of much of 20th Century Fox’s entertainment assets in 2019. “Top Gun: Maverick” is still the top domestic ticket seller with $718.7 million in revenues. Currently, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is the fourth highest-grossing domestic release of 2022, just behind “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” with its $411.3 million total. But it’s moving up the chart at a rapid clip.

With “Avatar: The Way of Water” looming large, Universal’s “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is poised to capture runner-up status. The animated sequel earned $6.5 million on Friday and is expected to net $15.9 million over the weekend and $21.2 million over the four-day holiday. That means it will likely enter 2023 with $66.6 million in grosses.

Disney and Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” nabbed third place on Friday, earning $1.8 million to bring its domestic gross to $434.9 million. It will earn $5.2 million this weekend and more than $7 million over the long holiday.

Sony’s “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody” took fourth place with roughly $1.5 million on Friday. That brings the biopic’s domestic gross to just over $11 million. It should gross $5.2 million over the holiday, which would leave it with nearly $16 million.

Paramount’s “Babylon,” a sprawling look at the dawn of Hollywood, continued to sputter. The drama grossed a paltry $935,000 on Friday. It should earn under $4 million over the holiday weekend, which would bring its domestic total to a disastrous $11 million and change. The movie, which features Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt as dysfunctional Silent era stars, cost $80 million to make and could lose more than that figure when marketing costs are taken into account.