One of the most anticipated movies of 2022 opened this past weekend and turned in the fifth-biggest opening weekend of the year.
Here’s a look at how the performance of “Avatar: The Way of Water” stacked up in 2022, so far, and against its previous movie released in theaters in 2009.
What Happened: The highly anticipated sequel to the 2009 box office smash hit “Avatar” opened with $134.1 million in domestic box office revenue, falling shy of estimates of $150 million to $175 million.
The movie opened with an international box office of $307.9 million, falling slightly over the mid-point estimate of $250 million to $350 million.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” turned in a worldwide opening weekend box office of $441.7 million, outpacing the $400 million projection.
The opening box office for “Avatar: The Way of Water” was the fifth-biggest domestic opening of the year, trailing three Marvel titles also from Walt Disney Co DIS and "Jurassic World Dominion" from Comcast Corporation CMCSA.
The movie turned in one of the best opening weekends of all time in the month of December, not counting Marvel and Star Wars movies.
Outside of North America, the movie had the second biggest opening weekend of 2022 at $307.6 million, trailing only “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” at $442 billion. In China, the movie grossed $57.1 million, which came as COVID-19 cases remain a concern in the country for movie theater operators.
The movie posted strong results for AMC Entertainment Holdings AMC, which reported this past weekend was ahead of the same comparable weekend in the pre-pandemic 2019 period. This came as movie theaters continued to face challenges in the post-pandemic world.
AMC also reported having its highest concessions day of 2022 in its international division thanks to the movie’s demand.
“At AMC, we’re greatly encouraged to see our revenues soar on the opening weekend of 'Avatar: The Way of Water,'” AMC CEO Adam Aron said.
AMC reported that premium formats like 3D, Imax and Dolby Cinema theaters made up 70% of all admissions revenue for “Avatar: The Way of Water” during its opening weekend. The movie's continued success can be a big catalyst for movie theaters with higher ticket prices coming from 3D and Imax showings.
Imax Corp IMAX was another stock that could benefit from the success of “Avatar: The Way of Water.” The prior 2009 release saw record-breaking Imax revenue and was said to be a must-see on the larger format screens.
Imax reported the movie helped the company have its second-biggest global opening weekend of all time with $48.8 million in box office revenue. Imax made up 11.2% of the film’s worldwide opening weekend gross revenue.
In North America, Imax represented 12.3% of the gross box office for the movie with $16.5 million. In China, the movie set a company record-hitting 27% of opening weekend box office revenue, despite being on 1% of the screens in the country. The Imax box office total in China was $15.8 million for the opening weekend.
The company reported that the movie broke the record for the largest Imax opening weekend of all time in 11 global markets.
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What’s Next: Despite missing some of the estimates for the opening weekend for the sequel, the good news for Disney and other companies could be the expected longevity for demand to see the movie.
The 2009 movie saw only 10.3% of its overall domestic box office total come from its opening weekend. Based on that percentage, the sequel would have a domestic box office of more than $1.3 billion.
Another movie to compare “Avatar: The Way of Water” to could be the 2022 smash hit “Top Gun: Maverick” from Paramount Global PARAPARAA.
The movie had strong repeat visits and word of mouth to help the longevity of the movie on the screen. The movie is the top-grossing movie of 2022 at $718.7 million domestically, despite having the seventh-largest opening weekend of 2022. The movie saw 17.6% of its total domestic box office come from its opening weekend.
“As excited as we are about these early results, we anticipate a long and successful run for 'Avatar: The Way of Water' as more people around the world book their ticket to Pandora for the epic storytelling and unmissable visual splendor of what James Cameron and his team have created,” Imax CEO Rich Gelfond said.
The movie is expected to play on Imax screens through January in many global markets with Gelfond saying fans would be “filling our theatres for this one-of-a-kind cinematic experience well into the new year.”
“Avatar: the Way of Water” is also generating strong reviews. The movie has an 8.1 rating on the movie database IMDb compared to 7.8 for the previous movie. The scores on Rotten Tomatoes for the sequel are 78% and 93% for critics and audience respectively, compared to ratings of 82% for both critics and audience on the original movie.
The second and third weekends for the movie covering the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends could provide a better idea of where the movie could finish in the box office rankings.
The original “Avatar” had a box office of $785. 2 million domestically and $2.92 billion worldwide, ranking fourth and first all-time, respectively.
Only five movies have grossed $2 billion worldwide including the original 2009 movie. The sequel will likely be judged on if it reaches this milestone. Based on the opening box office and the potential longevity of the movie, there is still a good chance the sequel gets there.
Cameron and Disney have high hopes for the movie and franchise’s success with more movies coming and a portion of the Animal Kingdom theme park dedicated to Pandora.
Cameron previously said the movie would need to have one of the biggest box office performances of all time to break even.
DIS Price Action: Shares of Disney are up 0.77% to $87.73 on Wednesday versus a 52-week trading range of $85.41 to $160.32.
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Photo: Courtesy and (c) Disney
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