Avatar 2 Now Headed Toward Box Office Disaster, Weekend Numbers Are In

Along with Avatar 2 underperforming in its opening weekend, the sequel relies on a 3D fad that's been dead for years.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

avatar 2 box office

Things aren’t looking great for the saga of Pandora. Avatar 2‘s box office numbers are in, and while a $134 million weekend would make most studios thrilled, for a sequel that reportedly needs $2 billion just to break even, it’s not the best news. Not only did Avatar: The Way of Water miss its $150-$175 million opening weekend projections, but some believe the sequel depends too heavily on the pull of 3D, which hasn’t helped significantly put butts in theater seats for years.

As Oliver Dancy of CNN Business writes, the theatrical landscape isn’t the same as it was when Avatar first became the best-selling movie of all time back in 2009. Avatar 2‘s opening weekend box office numbers have beaten those of its predecessor to the tune of $57 million, but Deadline reports that 62% of the sequel’s take-home came from “Imax, PLF and premium 3D ticket sales.” In order to reach the $2 billion goal, The Way of Water‘s premium tickets will have to keep up a good pace and it’s questionable whether 2022 audiences will be as willing as 2009 ones to shell out more money.

There was a time in the early 2010s when seeing blockbusters in 3D was so popular, getting tickets to standard formats could be tougher because multiplexes devoted more theaters to 3D and other premium formats; and Avatar helped make that happen. But along with the waned interest in seeing movies in 3D, Avatar 2 is taking on the box office in a much more crowded marketplace as far as genre movies are concerned. The audiences of 2009 who were blown away by the visuals of the first film have since been exposed to mind-blowing special effects from Marvel, Star Wars, and other science fiction and fantasy franchises.

James Cameron Avatar 2

Avatar 2‘s box office aspirations also have to contend with the streaming wars. Not only do audiences have dozens of other TV shows and films they can stream on their phones or in their living rooms rather than going to a theater to see The Way of Water, but they’ve also gotten used to much shorter theater-to-streaming turnaround times than we had in 2009. There are doubtless plenty of fans who want to see the film, but their anticipation may be tempered enough to wait until the film streams on Disney+; particularly for those who are already paid subscribers, that would seem like the less expensive option.

Not all is doom and gloom for Avatar 2‘s box office hopes. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro argues the sequel’s fate will be determined not on its opening weekend, but during the course of the holidays. He argues The Way of Water doesn’t face any serious competition until February 17 when Marvel’s Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania bows. Until then, the sequel could very well dominate the box office; the question is whether or not it will rule enough of the roost to push it into the black.