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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Box Office: Jury Is Out on Whether Sequel Will Ride the Waves or Drift

James Cameron is known for defying the odds. Over the past 25 years, he has twice proven his detractors wrong when Avatar, and a decade before, Titanic, it became the highest-grossing films of all time at the worldwide box office.

Now comes the long-awaited sequel. Avatar: The Path of Water, which opened notably behind tracking projections during the December 16-18 timeframe, grossing an estimated $134 million in domestic ticket sales. Heading into the weekend, several major services and exhibitors predicted the big-budget sequel would open in the $150 million to $175 million range domestically and serve as a rescue operation after a brutal drop in attendance. to the movies.

Overseas, the film opened with $307.6 million for a global start of $435 million, one of the best showings of the pandemic era. One disappointment: The film opened with $57.1 million muted in China, where a new COVID-19 crisis is unfolding.

The big question now: Will the expensive Disney store of the 20th century ride the waves and become the hero of the Christmas box office, or will it plunge into dangerous waters financially? Cameron himself has said the path of water it will need to earn in the $2 billion range to be considered a hit, though the breakeven point is closer to $1 billion, according to a movie financier.

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“Can James Cameron pull the rabbit out of the hat for the third time? I wouldn’t bet against him,” the source says.

The refrain was the same throughout Hollywood on Sunday when the opening numbers rolled in. Ditto for Wall Street box office analysts. “Openr: The path of water It’s an event movie. It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” says optimistic Eric Handler of MKM Partners, noting that every day between Christmas and New Years is like a Saturday. And, in addition to an A CinemaScore, the film earned glowing exit scores on PostTrak.

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Adds a distribution executive from a rival studio: “A worldwide debut of $441.6 million is pretty good.”

The question – the path of water it is one of the most expensive films ever made, with an estimated production budget of more than $400 million and marketing spend that brings the total price tag to at least $600 million, according to sources. It also has a duration of three hours and 12 minutes, while the first Avatar it ran 30 minutes less (and cost less).

In December 2009, Avatar it opened to a relatively modest $77 million on its way to grossing $2.92 billion globally (that includes re-releases). It also marked a milestone for the advent of modern 3D.

the path of water has seen a resurgence of 3D viewing after it fell out of favor in the years after 2009. About 57 percent of ticket buyers in North America paid a premium to view it in Cameron’s preferred format, and 66 percent percent of international audiences did. The film has been a boon for premium cinema in general, be it Imax or the myriad other big-format brands that the major circuits offer. But while most ticket buyers in the US chose to pay more money for an upgraded experience, capacity is limited. Whether this proves exclusive to more budget-conscious moviegoers remains to be seen.

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Says Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian: “Of course there’s the option to watch the movie in 2D, but that’s like drinking expensive wine out of a paper cup. So, to fully enjoy Cameron’s vision, viewing it in one of the myriad premium formats is recommended, and this presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the film’s revenue-generating power.”

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