‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Launches with $134M and $435M at the Domestic and Worldwide BO!!

20th Century Studios/Disney’s Avatar: The Way of Water is coming in close to where we told you last night: $44.5M for Saturday and an opening weekend of $134M. The global $435M start of Avatar 2 puts Disney very close to notching the $4 billion mark worldwide for the year.

Despite Avatar: The Way of Water missing its $150M-$175M projections, rival distribution sources and exhibition aren’t bothered –nor do they believe that the sky is falling for cinema– particularly for a movie that cost according to sources (not Disney) at about around $460M before P&A. When it comes to the ultimate fate of Avatar 2, which was propped greatly by Imax, PLF and premium 3D ticket sales this weekend at 62%, we have to play the long-game. Factor in that 20% of the sequel’s presales are for showtimes beyond this weekend. Normally for an average Marvel movie, their presales stand at 5% beyond opening weekend. Each day from Monday through New Year’s weekend, is like a Saturday at the box office. Media outlets at the time of Titanic and Avatar‘s play immediately declared them bombs before they respectively became the highest grossing movies of all-time (the former before the latter).

As those studio executives who’ve worked with the Avatar filmmaker before exclaim, “Don’t ever bet against Jim Cameron.”

“We got the word of mouth, we’ve got a great movie, we have the screens and a clear run ahead throughout the holidays,” beamed Disney EVP of Theatrical Distribution Tony Chambers.

Providing confidence that Avatar 2 has a great play ahead are its stellar audience exits (A CinemaScore, 91% and 5 stars on ComScore/Screen Engine PostTrak) and great ability to hold. In fact, the movie is already holding in full force. Avatar 2‘s Friday to Saturday decline is only -16%. That’s the best Friday-to-Saturday hold for a year-end tentpole release of late beating Rise of Skywalker (-47%), Force Awakens (-43%), Spider-Man: No Way Home (-39%), The Last Jedi (-39%), and Rogue One (-35%).

Top Gun: Maverick was floated as a comp to Avatar 2 given how it was a long-awaited sequel to a legacy film. Avatar 2‘s ease from Friday is even ahead of that Tom Cruise title which declined -27% between its first Friday and Saturday. Top Gun 2 had a 5.67x multiple off its 3-day opening of $126.7M and got to $718.7M. See how that worked? It’s the 7th highest opening of 2022, but the top grossing movie of the year. Tentpoles do leg out off lower openings, and that’s the expectation here with Avatar 2 as moviegoers seek out the best tickets in the best formats in the coming weeks.

Again, there’s no direct competition for quite some time. A backloaded grossing movie like Avatar 2 is good for exhibition heading into a Q1 that’s largely dry of tentpoles until Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania on Feb. 17.

More juice for Avatar 2: schools start Christmas breaks on Monday per Comscore, with 41% K-12 off and 77% colleges. That jumps to 82% K-12 and 94% colleges off by Friday.

Drilling down more on the hold factor here for Avatar 2 throughout its opening weekend: It’s even better percentile-wise than Rogue One. That Star Wars prequel had $29M in Thursday previews, rose +45% on Friday to $42M, and then only upticked +10% on its first Saturday to $46.3M. Avatar 2‘s Thursday ($17M) to Friday ($36M) jump was a great +113%, and the Friday-to-Saturday surge here to $44.5M is a commendable +24%.

Avatar: The Way of Water‘s opening here is the 6th best domestic debut in December after Spider-Man: No Way Home ($260.1M), Force Awakens ($247.9M), Last Jedi ($220M), Rise of Skywalker ($177.3M) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($155M).

Breaking down the premium of it all: Avatar: The Way of Water saw 31% of its weekend B.O. from traditional 3D screens, 12% Imax 3D, 12% PLF 3D, 4% PLF 2D, 2% Motion 3D, and 1% ScreenX 2D. In North America, the sequel opened to $16.5M on 407 IMAX screens, for a per screen average of over US $40K. Global Imax is $48.8M from 1,543 screens in 80 markets, the 2nd highest worldwide bow for the large format network.

“Avatar: The Way of Water’ is a watershed achievement in filmmaking innovation and technology, and it’s clear that global audiences are choosing to see this film through the best technology for blockbuster entertainment in the world: IMAX,” said Rich Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. “As excited as we are about these early results, we anticipate a long and successful run for Avatar: The Way of Water as more people around the world book their ticket to Pandora for the epic storytelling and unmissable visual splendor of what James Cameron and his team have created.”

“Just as the original Avatar did, Avatar: The Way of Water has set a new benchmark for the current 3D marketplace. James Cameron and his team have shown what is artistically, creatively, and commercially possible when you have filmmakers completely committed to immersing audiences in this 3D world and the result is visually mind blowing. We expect to continue to see strong 3D results worldwide thru the holiday and new year,” said Travis Reid, CEO and President of RealD about the format’s 66% share of Avatar 2′s global ticket sales.

Avatar was one of the big reasons why Disney acquired Fox, and the Mouse House isn’t set to simply spend on this sequel the first weekend and abandon it. The Burbank, CA based studio, despite embracing a theatrical day-and-date mentality during the pandemic with movies on Disney+ under the Bob Chapek era, is venerating the theatrical window here for a movie which is ideally seen only in theaters (3D big screen TVs, once vogue, have greatly waned in supply and demand). Typically movies greenlit by another administration are minimized under their new studio overlords, however, Bob Iger, who I hear was largely Cameron’s point person in the inheritance of Avatar, was supportive of Cameron’s process which began under the Rupert Murdoch era in 2013 with a novel feature screenwriters’ room at the time including the director, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno. The group worked in tandem with the art and production design department at the same time, the latter taking immediate inspiration from the ideas that sprang forth from that room in Manhattan Beach. The screenwriting group cracked all the screenplays for the sequels before the movie officially began shooting, with the actors reading them all so that they were aware of their character arcs. At CinemaCon 2016, Cameron showed up to announce that he was adding another sequel. Performance capture of the actors began in September 2017 for the first two movies. There was a live action shoot in late 2019, but that was interrupted by Covid in March, at which point the production was down for only eight weeks. Avatar 3, which is due out on Dec. 20, 2024 and is currently being finished. A third of the fourth film has been shot; that pic will hit cinemas on Dec. 18, 2026.

iSpot estimates that Disney spent over $23M in U.S. TV spots (plus another near $7M in co-branded spots), ranking up there with other big pics this year, including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($27M plus another $41M in co-branded spots), and Jurassic World Dominion $42.3 million (boosted by a Super Bowl trailer, plus another $24.1 million in co-branded spots.

All films grossed $152.3M per Comscore this weekend which is weekend No. 50 in the calendar. That’s comparable to the weekend when West Side Story debuted last year, +244%. Current running total for 2022 box office is $7.06 billion, +78% over last year which was at $3.97 billon.

1.) Avatar: The Way of Water (Dis/20th) 4,202 theaters Fri $53M, Sat $44.5M, Sun $36.5M, 3-day $134M/Wk 1

2.) Wakanda Forever (Dis) 3,380 (-345) theaters, Fri $1.44M Sat $2.25M Sun $1.7M 3day $5.4M (-52%) Total $418.99M/Wk 6

3.) Violet Night (Uni) 3,528 (-195) theaters, Fri $1.4M Sat $2.1M Sun $1.47M 3day $5M (-43%) Total $34.96M/Wk 3

4.) Strange World theaters, Fri $521K Sat $967K Sun $712K 3day $2.2M (-42%) Total $33.8M/Wk 4

5.) The Menu 1,875 (-835) theaters, Fri $500k Sat $660k Sun $540k 3day $1.7M (-39%) Total $32.1m/Wk 5

6.) Devotion (Sony) 2,211 (-1,247) theaters Fri $250K Sat $333K Sun $242K 3-day $825K (-59%) Total $18.7M/Wk 4

7.) The Fabelmans (Uni/Amb) 955 (-18) theaters Fri $220K Sat $320K Sun $210K 3-day $750K (-36%) Total $8.66M/Wk 6

8.) Black Adam (NL) 1,304 (-839) theaters Fri $125K Sat $205K Sun $170K 3 day $500K (-62%) Total $167.7M/Wk 9

9.) I Heard the Bells (Fath) 426 (-754) theaters Fri $93K Sat $123K Sun $93K 3-day $309K (-59%) Total $4.99M/Wk 3

10.) Empire of Light (Sea) 436 (+326) theaters, Fri $71K Sat $91K Sun $73K, 3-day $235K (+44%) Total $471,8K /Wk 2

 

via Deadline

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