Disney and the 20th century Avatar: The Path of Water it opened in China over the weekend to $57.1 million, an opening take that would be considered a heroic comeback for Hollywood in the increasingly choppy Chinese market, if it were made by any filmmaker but James Cameron.
Presale rates and other online measures of audience interest had suggested avatar 2 would open in China with over $100 million. But a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Beijing and other major cities appears to have put a damper on consumer activity and upended all precedents. Analysts now believe the film’s performance will be characterized by a long ebb and flow of earnings rather than a tsunami.
“China’s theater industry continues to work under the impact of COVID, with a significant impact on original estimates,” says Rance Pow, chief executive of regional box office consultancy Artisan Gateway. “This includes what may be a reluctance of people to forcefully return to public spaces, including cinemas, ironically, as COVID policies become more adaptable to local conditions. If so, avatar 2The long execution time of can work against you. However, the film has excellent scores on social media, James Cameron has an immense fan base in China, and his films have an established track record of performing well.”
On Friday, China’s top ticking app Maoyan projected avatar 2 would earn $360 million (RMB 2.51 billion). Forecasters had good reason to be optimistic: Shortly before Friday, the path of water surpassed the pre-sales total achieved by the Chinese blockbuster The Battle at Changjin Lake 2, which earned more than $100 million on its first day of February and eventually surpassed $626 million. But by Sunday, Maoyan’s full forecast for avatar 2 it had dropped to $143 million (RMB 1 billion), reflecting how unreliable business-as-usual indicators had become amid uncertain public health conditions.
Nevertheless, the path of water it has been very well received by the Chinese viewers who have watched it so far. The film has sky-high social ratings of 9.3 on Maoyan, 9.2 on Alibaba’s ticketing app Tao Piao Piao, and 8.2 on movie site Douban.
The fate of the film now comes down to how consumer behavior evolves in the coming weeks as Chinese audiences deal with their first experience of widespread COVID infection as a daily occurrence. avatar 2 will run largely unrestricted in Chinese theaters until the Lunar New Year holiday, starting on January 22, when the sequel to local sci-fi hit Wandering Earth opens.
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