James Cameron’s Massive Payday for Avatar 2 Revealed

By David Thompson Posted:
James Cameron Avatar 2

Avatar: The Way of Water's historic box office success is giving director James Cameron one of the biggest paydays of any entertainer in 2022.

The second Avatar installment has blown box office expectations out of the water (no pun intended) and picked up right where the 2009 original left off. 

To date, The Way of Water is now the third-highest-grossing film globally, only trailing its own predecessor Avatar and Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame. This puts James Cameron in very rare company, as Titanic is now the fourth-highest-grossing film ever, meaning the director has accounted for three of the four most successful films in Hollywood history.

This unprecedented success will likely continue when Avatar 3 releases (if it stays on schedule) in December of 2024. 

How Much James Cameron Earned for Avatar 2

James Cameron, Avatar

A recent Forbes article (highlighting the highest-earning entertainers of 2022) confirmed what fans already knew: James Cameron has made an unbelieve amount of money from Avatar: The Way of Water and it's only just beginning.

The article reported that Cameron has already earned at least $95 million in a deal that is "backend-heavy with bonuses for crossing certain box office thresholds."

This means that the $95 million he's already earned will likely balloon to an even more impressive net revenue by the director.

Earning unfathomable amounts of money from just one film isn't new to Cameron and is probably why he has invested so much time and effort into the Avatar sequels.

Deadline reported in 2010 that Cameron earned $350 million from the original Avatar over time. This is due to a first-dollar deal (earning a percentage of the box office gross, even before it turns profitable) or an “at cash break” gross (a deal that takes into account a movie's production costs, but not other costs).

Besides the historic box office performance of Avatar, much of that $350 million total can be attributed to DVD sales. In the first four days on the market, $130 million dollars worth of Blu-Ray and DVD discs were sold. Physical media no longer has this much profit potential after the rising of streaming in the 2010s.

Needless to say, before Avatar 2, Cameron was already an incredibly wealthy filmmaker. According to CelebrityNetWorth (via Yahoo!) his net worth is around $700 million. His films have grossed over $9 billion in total and The Way of Water still has some room to grow.

Cameron made a brilliant move that earned him far more money than originally expected when first making Titanic. The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, was running over budget, and Cameron put up $8 million of his own money in exchange for royalties based on the success of the film. The deal resulted in him earning $650 million due to the success of Titanic.

Cameron Striking Gold in Hollywood

James Cameron is more well-known for how much money his film makes than anything else, which is rare for this industry.

Cameron isn't a business executive and 20th Century Studios (owned by Disney) makes decisions solely based on the bottom line. The director has just found a knack for making historically successful films made for theaters that perform well across the globe.

There were some skeptics about whether The Way of Water wasn't going to be a big success, or even gross $1 billion globally. Incredibly, the film soared passed that mark and Cameron quickly silenced any doubters. 

Regardless of box office pessimists, Avatar 2 needed to make over $1.4 billion (previously thought to be $2 billion) in order to become profitable (due to the budget that funds the captivating CGI effects that draw crowds into 3D, IMAX, and other premium screening options).

The expectations from Cameron and Disney were high, and the film has been able to turn a profit and certainly green-light the production of future sequels.

Avatar: The Way of Water is currently playing in theaters worldwide.

- About The Author: David Thompson
As an editor, writer, and podcast host, David is a key member of The Direct. He is an expert at covering topics like Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and business-related news following the box office and streaming.