Avatar 2’s First Box Office Results Are In And Unexpected

Avatar 2 debuted with $53 million, and could only make around $150 million in its opening weekend.

By TeeJay Small | Updated

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Avatar 2 looks to be financially underperforming at the box office, despite its huge budget. Much to the chagrin of visionary director James Cameron, who refused to attend the premiere himself. The film’s projections suggested the film may underperform against its absurd billion-dollar price tag requirement set by Cameron himself, leaving the future of the franchise in doubt. According to Deadline, the film grossed only $53 million on opening day.

Disney’s previous holiday release, Spider-Man: No Way Home grossed $121.9 million on opening day, for reference, setting records as the second largest box office smash of all time, following only another Disney film, Avengers: Endgame. James Cameron made public comments regarding Avatar 2‘s need to outperform those films in order to make its money back, while also lamenting that the Avatar series would outperform Marvel films if there were an equal number of installments in each property. While the film may continue to gross a significant portion of its budget back overseas, there is no way of knowing what effect this will have on the planned sequels.

Deadline is also quick to point out that films with huge box office openings are often doomed to have a steep drop in following showings, noting that No Way Home nosedived by 68% in its second weekend, meaning Avatar 2 could make its money back after all, just slowly over the course of multiple weekends. Avatar 2 still outperformed its predecessor, as the first groundbreaking installment in the Avatar franchise netted $27 million on opening day. Of course, that’s $27 million in 2009 dollars, in a cinema landscape that was significantly different than the one we’re in now.

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Despite Avatar 2‘s underperforming box office numbers, the visual spectacle does seem to be drawing a crowd, as many theaters are sold out of tickets, some only having seats remaining at midnight shows. Perhaps some of the blame rests on the film’s run time, which sits at more than 3 hours, giving theaters limited availability for multiple back-to-back showings. In addition to these figures, most audiences want to see the film in premium formats, such as Screen X, MX4D, and PLF 3D, in order to achieve the highest quality viewing experience possible.

In that way, it seems like James Cameron should almost be grateful for the dip in sales, as he may have made Avatar 2 such a spectacle that regular theater experiences just don’t cut it. In addition, The Way Of Water‘s opening reviews and social media discussion seem to be overwhelmingly positive, providing some real-time immediate feedback on the overall quality of the film beyond the spectacle. Even if the movie fails to make its money back on opening weekend, an art piece of this magnitude could continue to be financially lucrative for years to come.

Avatar 2 may be a cautionary tale not unlike Icarus. Did James Cameron fly too close to the sun when he set out to make a film with advanced technology 13 years in the making? Only time will tell. The Way Of Water is in theaters now, if you can manage to snag a ticket.