After just six weeks of release, James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” has surpassed $2 billion in global ticket sales. It’s the sixth film in history — and first in pandemic times — to cross the coveted milestone, joining an exclusive club that includes “Avatar,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Titanic,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Now, Cameron is responsible for three of the six-highest grossing movies of all time. He’s also the only director with three films to cross $2 billion. Notably, Zoe Saldaña, who plays Neytiri in the “Avatar” series, has now starred in four of the six films to cross $2 billion. She also appears in both “Avengers: Endgame” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” reprising her “Guardians of the Galaxy” role of Gamora.
Notably, “The Way of Water” has officially hit the lofty goal that Cameron set for himself prior to the film’s release. Before the sequel opened in theaters, he told GQ that “Avatar 2” represents “the worst business case in movie history” because it needs to become one of the three or four top-grossing movies of all time just to break even. (Analysts believe the film’s breakeven point was close to $1.5 billion, so “The Way of Water” has already been in the black.) But in the coming days, it’ll take down the fourth- and fifth-biggest movies, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($2.07 billion) and “Avengers: Infinity War” ($2.04 billion), to achieve that feat.
The original “Avatar,” which debuted in theaters 13 years ago, remains the biggest movie of all time with $2.9 billion. “Avengers: Endgame” trails closely behind in second place with $2.79 billion, while “Titanic” stands as the third-highest grossing release ever with $2.19 billion.
So far, “The Way of Water” has generated $598 million at the domestic box office and $1.4 billion internationally. Overseas, the standout markets are China ($229 million), France ($129 million), Germany ($117 million), Korea ($96 million) and the United Kingdom ($81 million). It’s especially impressive that “Avatar 2” managed to crack $2 billion, a benchmark that’s been impossible in COVID times, because not every market is re-connecting with the Na’vi. The follow-up isn’t playing in Russia, where the original grossed $116 million, and it’s flopping in Japan with $28 million, a dramatic decrease from the first film’s $176 million haul.
The long-delayed sequel to 2009’s “Avatar” opened in December and remained hugely popular in the weeks since its release. Like the original, Imax and 3D screens, as well as repeat customers across all ages and demographics, have propelled ticket sales to stratospheric heights. Disney, which holds the rights to “Avatar” after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, spent roughly $460 million to produce and promote “The Way of Water,” making it one of the most expensive films ever.