‘Avatar’ sequel grosses $17 million in Thursday showings

“Avatar: The Way of Water” has grossed a solid $17 million in ticket sales since Thursday’s “Preview” screenings in the US and Canada, according to studio estimates, an early indicator that James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel is on the way The way to a strong success is starting at the domestic box office.

According to box office analysts, the film, which cost at least $350 million to produce prior to marketing, is expected to rake in $150 million to $175 million in ticket sales in North America by Sunday.

The new film comes 13 years after the original Avatar, which remains the highest-grossing film of all time at more than $2.9 billion, unadjusted for inflation.

Walt Disney Co. is releasing the film, which it inherited through its 2019 acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Disney is banking on Avatar becoming a franchise. But the film has to be one of the all-time top films to be considered a hit, and its opening weekend is just the beginning of what the studio hopes will be a remarkably long run.

According to exhibition sources, pre-sales are strong not only for the debut but also for the following weekends.

“That’s a turtle, not a rabbit,” said Richard Gelfond, chief executive of Imax Corp. Earlier this week. “This is built for a marathon.”

3-D screenings, which are more expensive for ticket buyers, will be a key enabler for The Way of Water. To date, 61% of revenue has been spent on showings in 3D and other premium formats, according to Disney. Reviews were mostly positive, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 80%.

Results from Thursday night screenings are not usually reliable indicators of the entire weekend’s performance, especially given that The Way of Water hits theaters in the middle of the holidays and is expected to be more widely distributed.

In comparison, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever earned $28 million from previews, on its way to grossing $181 million on its debut weekend. But massive Thursday numbers are typical of Marvel pictures. “Wakanda Forever” grossed $772 million at the box office.

Internationally, The Way of Water is doing strong business at $50.4 million from the 44 countries it has been released in to date. Top markets for the film include South Korea, France, Germany, Mexico and Australia.

The film’s performance in China will be critical to its overall success.

The Chinese government recently eased restrictions related to the “zero-COVID” policy, which is good timing for Cameron, Disney and China’s massive cinema industry. The studio expects “The Way of Water” to gross a whopping $18.5 million from day one in China, including $5 million from “Sneak” screenings that aren’t in the 50th season $.4 million in the company’s international box office.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2022-12-16/avatar-the-way-of-water-grosses-a-solid-17-million-in-thursday-showings ‘Avatar’ sequel grosses $17 million in Thursday showings

Sarah Ridley

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