As Black Panther: Wakanda Forever winds down the peak of its run, a new challenger is entering the ring with Avatar 2. Following up on the highest-grossing movie of all time, director James Cameron has a lot to live up to, and expectations are running high after a visually spectacular trailer and promotional campaign.
Of course, the theater industry is not quite what it used to be after suffering through the pandemic, but Top Gun 2 and No Way Home proved movies can still break records and have overwhelming success. But can Avatar 2 do the same? Well, after smashing one record, things are looking rather positive.
Avatar 2 Dominates Its Box Office Opening
As shared on Twitter by box office guru Luiz Fernando, Avatar: The Way of Water has broken one record held by Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Having grossed $53M domestically on the Friday opening, Avatar 2 took home $76.7M overseas, overtaking No Way Home's $67.2M and Doctor Strange 2's $53.6M to become the biggest of the post-pandemic era.
The impressive opening resulted in a total of $127.1M international gross, and $180.1M global result. The Way of Water is now eyeing a $290M-$300M 5-day opening overseas, for a total global result of $415M-$435M.
Despite these record-breaking overseas results, the domestic number of $53M - including $17M in previews - is somewhat underwhelming. This placed the sequel as the 44th biggest domestic opening of all-time and only the 6th-biggest Friday of the pandemic era, just surpassing the $52M of Top Gun: Maverick.
Is Avatar 2 Disappointing or Succeeding?
The first Avatar flick saw a similar pattern as, out of its original $2.74B box office gross, only $749.7M came from the United States, with the other $2B coming from international results. So, seeing the second see similar success with international audiences isn't awfully surprising, whatever the reasons behind this may be.
The long-awaited sequel's expected $415M-$435M global opening competes well with the $242.5M of the 2009 original - $336.5M when adjusted for inflation. Obviously, the first Avatar succeeded so well based on the long legs it had to keep winning for weeks on end, only time will tell if The Way of Water has the same.
Nonetheless, fans should not have the expectation that Avatar 2 will triumph over its highest-grossing film ever predecessor. It may not even surpass the totals of No Way Home, which had a far larger worldwide opening of $587.2M - although that had fans rushing to see it immediately to avoid its Multiversal spoilers.
The Way of Water will not be relying on such tools, as James Cameron and Disney hope this film's visual spectacle and brand recognition will be enough to keep it going for a long time - especially as it can capitalize off the festive season, just as the first similarly did with its mid-December 2009 release.
After all, the flick doesn't really have much major competition until February's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania in terms of huge blockbusters that ought to dominate the box office. M3GAN will undoubtedly make a splash with horror fans in mid-January, although that won't be any threat to Avatar 2's supremacy.
Of course, Spider-Man: No Way Home set plenty of records for the post-pandemic era, as it was integral to resurrecting theaters, but many of those will now begin to be surpassed. Avatar 2 marks the first major challenge, anticipation-wise, to No Way Home's supremacy, and there will be more to come in the coming years.
As of yet, no film since the pandemic began has been able to cross the $2B mark - 2019's Avengers: Endgame was the last - with No Way Home coming the closest with $1.9B. Whether The Way of Water has the legs to be next will remain to be seen, although this opening offers positive signs that it may follow a similar pattern to the first of achieving long-term international success.
With Cameron having already filmed a nine-hour cut of Avatar 3 and begun early works on the fourth, the director certainly needs this one to succeed after committing so much to this franchise. These early numbers ought to near guarantee he will be given the go-ahead to push ahead with these sequels, which will be welcome news to many.
Avatar: The Way of Water is playing now in theaters worldwide.