Before its release, all eyes were on Avatar: The Way of Water and how it would do at the global box office.
It wasn't just the fact that Avatar remains the biggest movie of all time or the fact that we'd waited 13 years for it. It was both of those things and the knowledge that James Cameron had big plans for the follow-up to his record-breaking original movie.
Cameron envisioned the sequel as part of a four-movie opus through to Avatar 5 in December 2028. Each movie would tell its own self-contained story, but all weave together to tell the epic story of the Sully family. But would he get to realise his vision?
The filmmaker himself was open about the fact that the sequel was 'very f**king [expensive]' (reports have the budget anywhere between $250 million to $400 million), and that if it underperformed at the box office, the series could end with the already-filmed third movie.
So with Avatar: The Way of Water coming up to one month of release, how it is looking at the box office and what does it mean for Avatar's future? Let's investigate.
The early signs for Avatar: The Way of Water weren't the most auspicious. Originally projected for a $525 million opening weekend globally, it ended up 'only' grossing $441.6 million worldwide, not helped by Covid outbreaks in China softening its debut there.
Was it the first sign that anticipation wasn't as high as expected for the sequel? Reviews were positive, but not overwhelmingly so, which could have impacted its opening weekend. Equally, fans might have just been waiting for Christmas, yet that didn't stop Avatar critics prepping their 'told you so' pieces.
As you might have heard before though, you never bet against James Cameron and, specifically, the staying power of Cameron.
The sequel rebounded in style to become the sixth-fastest movie in history to hit the $1 billion mark at the global box office after only 14 days of release. It currently stands as the tenth highest-grossing movie of all time and will soon become the ninth biggest.
As of January 4, Avatar: The Way of Water has grossed $464.9 million in the US and $1.05 billion overseas, giving it a grand total to date of $1.52 billion. Not bad for a series with supposedly 'no cultural footprint', eh?
The Avatar series might not lend itself to the same meme-able culture as fellow blockbusters, such as in the MCU or Star Wars, and arguably there aren't the major twists that draw constant online debate following its release.
But you don't get to $1.5 billion (and soon way beyond) without being a major draw at the cinema or without people enjoying multiple viewings.
It could be because of the promise of a big-screen visual spectacle, it could be because of the draw of a new Cameron movie or it could even be pure intrigue. (Maybe even some bought tickets just to see the incredible Barbie teaser, but they probably stayed to visit Pandora too.)
Whatever it is, the sequel's performance has likely ensured that Cameron, should he wish to, can fulfil his planned vision.
We knew that the third movie was coming in December 2024 as it had already been filmed, but Avatar 4 has only been partially filmed. It will surely now be given the green light and, like the second and third movies, could well end up being filmed at the same time as the fifth movie to cut some production costs.
Why are we so confident for the future? Because Avatar: The Way of Water has shown no signs of slowing down yet.
After the opening weekend, you'd have got long odds on the sequel making it into the hallowed $2 billion club. After four weeks in play though, it'd be a major surprise if the movie doesn't make it there.
Currently there are only five movies in history that have grossed more than $2 billion worldwide – and Cameron has two of them already: Avatar ($2.92 billion) and Titanic ($2.2 billion).
The exclusive club is rounded out by Avengers: Infinity War ($2.05 billion), Avengers: Endgame ($2.8 billion) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($2.07 billion). You can soon expect to see Avatar: The Way of Water join that club, and potentially edge out Infinity War and The Force Awakens.
We're not saying that Avatar: The Way of Water will get anywhere close to Avatar's record-breaking $2.92 billion haul, but it's still swimming to a very healthy total at the worldwide box office and that bodes well for the future of the series.
Will Avatar 3 be able to continue James Cameron's quite ridiculous box office record? You should know by now that if anyone can, he can.
Avatar: The Way of Water is out now in cinemas.
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