Hollywood and anxious theatre owners depend on the eagerly anticipated sequel to end 2022 in style following a challenging autumn season. The Way of Water should make between $150 million and $175 million in its home premiere and between $450 million and $550 million worldwide if tracking is accurate.
One difficulty is that the film’s lengthy three hours and twelve minutes running time necessitates fewer showtimes (at the same time, it faces almost no competition).
Avatar 2 is one of the few recent Hollywood tentpoles to be released in China, which is another important factor. It might start at up to $100 million, but a significant COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing could make things more difficult.
Disney/Doctor Marvel’s Strange in the Multiverse of Madness debuted at $449 million globally, the biggest performance of the year thus far among other 2022 tentpoles (it did not play in China). With $583 million, Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, which debuted in December 2021 (and which also failed to perform in China), continues to retain the record for the best pandemic period global opening.
The first Avatar became the highest-grossing movie of all time, a record it maintains with more than $2.92 billion in ticket sales, without accounting for inflation. The Way of Water, which cost between $350 million and $400 million to develop before marketing, debuts 13 years later.
Disney, the studio behind 20th Century, emphasizes that the sequel’s long-term success will be more important than a big opening weekend. Midway through December 2009, the first Avatar premiered to a relatively low $77 million, but it persisted for months (that film ran two hours and 41 minutes).
Tom Cruise’s blockbuster Top: Gun Maverick, which debuted at $126.7 million domestically earlier this year, eventually made a mind-blowing $1.49 billion at the global movie office.