All eyes were on the numbers filtering through from global cinemas over the weekend as the biggest blockbuster movie gamble of the year – Avatar: The Way Of Water – finally made its bow.
James Cameron’s sequel to the commercially biggest film of all time arrives 13 years after the first movie, and Disney – the current backers – is reportedly around $1bn in on the project. Cameron, after all, is in the midst of building several Avatar sequels, and this was the first to, well, test the water.
Early results? Positive, but they’ll be discussions within the halls of Disney as to whether they’re positive enough. James Cameron, after all, as already suggested that Avatar: The Way Of Water will need to be the third or fourth biggest film of all time at the box office to break even. That’s, basically, a cool couple of billion dollars.
The opening weekend for the film in the US brought in $152m. That’s the fifth biggest opening in the States this year, and is an encouraging start for the film. It’s the what happens next that’s interesting.
The opening’s a lot higher than that for the original Avatar, but the first film kept bringing in huge audiences week after week (riding off the back of a 3D boom that’s long since gone).
The sequel needs to do the same, and the path is relatively clear for it to do so. There’s only one other studio release scheduled this year, the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody. It’s hard to see much overlap between the two films, so assuming the word of mouth holds up, there’s a path to at least $1bn for the new Avatar.
Furthermore, outside of the US, another $300m has been banked. Off the back of an admittedly hefty and expensive marketing campaign – few people can’t have realised the film was happening – the movie’s total stands at $434m inside three days.
Yet it’s that word of mouth question that remains the key. Certainly critical reviews for this one weren’t as positive as they were for the original. Early signs are that audiences are liking it more, and with Avatar 3 due in a year, that’s a blessed relief to Disney beancounters at least.
But still: it’s a brave person at the moment who’d stake more than a few quid on Avatar: The Way Of Water matching even half of the $2.9bn of ticket sales earned by the original. James Cameron has proven himself someone adept at wrongfooting pundits before. The clear signs here are that he has another major success on his hands – it just might not quite be major enough…