“Avatar: The Way of Water” Splashes Down with $134m in its First Weekend (Box Office 12/18)

Land ho! The Metkayina are approaching! 

James Cameron’s first film in thirteen years, Avatar: The Way of Water, hit theaters this weekend with a hefty $134m. Reportedly the most expensive film ever made, the 192-minute 3D extravaganza made a whopping 62% of its money from IMAX and other premium screens, and I assume the vast majority of the other 38% are paying 3D surcharges. 

So… is this a hit? Too early to tell. The film needs a ton of money to break even, but the real test is going to be over the holiday season. The original Avatar opened to only $77m, but remained #1 at the box office for seven straight weeks, never dropping more than 27% over that time. There’s no real plot to spoil, so audiences don’t feel the need to rush out like they would an MCU movie; additionally, The Way of Water targets slightly older audiences than most blockbuster event films, and while families and teens will still go to see it, older audiences don’t care as much about rushing out during the first weekend. The question remains as to how many people are going to see it over the holiday season and the relatively dry January, and how many people are going to see it a second or even third time. (I know I will see it again, but probably in January.) With an A CinemaScore, audiences are clearly loving it, and those high recommendations can help films stay in the picture past opening weekend. And who really cares about such a titanic (get it) work of visual storytelling breaking even anyway? The opening weekend has already shown that it won’t be a massive bomb, and that’s perfectly fine.

Pretty much everything else at the box office understandably got its lunch eaten by Avatar, but Violent Night has proven to be a solid little hit in its third week. Empire of Light went from 105 theaters to 435 theaters, jumping up 43% to land in the top ten, but Searchlight (a subsidiary of 20th Century which is now owned by Disney) is releasing their own “awards” film as counter-programming against their blockbuster film (Avatar is 20th Century which is now owned by Disney). Hooray for corporate consolidation! Empire is truly quite dismal, and while older audiences might be enticed by Olivia Colman, Sam Mendes, and the magic of the cinema, I don’t really think it will become a major player either at the box office or at awards. 
Next week, four releases come to challenge Avatar’s crown: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Babylon, and the wide release of The Whale, which has done pretty good business for 2 weeks in NY and LA. None of them will topple the Tulkuns, but what has the best fight against Payakan? See you next week to find out.