Avatar: The Way of Water is still tracking behind Top Gun: Maverick at the end of its first week in the domestic box office. The film, which came to theaters on December 16, is the long-awaited sequel to the smash hit Avatar from 2009, which is still one of the highest grossing films of all time. James Cameron returned to direct The Way of Water along with many returning cast members like Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang, though not every actor is playing the same character they played in the original film. The film follows Jake and Neytiri as they navigate parenthood on Pandora, only to have the humans return, bent on exterminating the Na’vi once and for all.
Per Deadline, Avatar: The Way of Water‘s domestic box office has accrued an additional $14.5 million yesterday, bringing its cumuative total to $197.5 million and meaning it will cross the $200 million mark today, on day 8. The film is now standing alongside other high-grossing but not record-breaking films that took 8 days to cross that line, including Jurassic World Dominion, Thor: Love and Thunder, and 2019’s Captain Marvel. Its first week is also tracking slightly behind this year’s legacy sequel hit Top Gun: Maverick, which performed 4 percent better in the domestic box office during its first week in theaters.
Why is Avatar: The Way of Water’s Opening Week Slightly Less Than Impressive?
Avatar: The Way of Water‘s opening week has only been unimpressive on the scale set by the legacy of the original film. However, due to its enormous price tag (which has been estimated to be somewhere between $350 and $450 million before factoring in publicity and advertising costs), the film will need to accrue quite a few more weeks like this in order to break even. Cameron himself has admitted that it will have to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time in order to turn a profit, which may require a gross to the tune of $2 billion.
However, this slightly damp opening week doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t reach that goal. The run time of Avatar: The Way of Water, which exceeds three hours, means that theaters can’t run as many screenings per day as they can with shorter films. There have also been extreme weather conditions and power outages in huge swaths of the American Midwest, meaning that some fans have been unable to see the movie as planned this week. As theaters reopen in those areas, the film may get a boost that helps it keep its week 2 from slumping hard after its opening.
Avatar: The Way of Water is also a film that is designed to be an event. This means that viewers are more likely to prioritize large-format premium screenings and 3D showings, both of which feature higher ticket prices. Repeat viewings will also likely help boost the belated Avatar sequel’s total gross, though it remains to be seen exactly how high it can possibly go.