‘Way of Water’ opens at $134 million, just not living up to expectations

Avatar: Path of Water

Credit: Disney Co.

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of the Water failed to live up to strong box office performance, but international ticket sales are encouraging that the long-awaited sequel could still be a significant global success.

The film grossed $134 million at the box office on its opening weekend, short of the $175 million that industry analysts had predicted and just short of the $135 million to $150 million range. Disney was a forecast.

Film associated with Warner Brazzers.’ The Batman, which also earned $134 million during its domestic opening in March, was the fifth-biggest opening of the year, according to Comscore data.

Internationally, The Way of the Water grossed $300.5 million, bringing the film’s opening weekend gross to $434.5 million.

“Because most people love the movie, the sweet vibe of that enthusiasm inspired some of the predictions for the opening weekend, which are not supported by historical data and various headwinds for the movie,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “However, The Way of Water has many factors working in its favor that ensure it has long-term prospects for a huge global success.”

Notably, ticket sales in China for the first three days of opening were $57.1 million.

A decade ago, China’s box office contributed about $265 million to Avatar’s global tally, but the market has grown significantly since then. Before the pandemic, China was the second most profitable theater market in the world. Since cinemas reopened in the country, this market has become one of the fastest recovering and securing box office.

In 2009, Chinese box office totals reached $910 million. Ten years later, it topped $8 billion.

Box office analysts are unfazed by the film’s lower-than-expected box office performance in the country, especially due to how it performed internationally. The original Avatar, released in 2009, made just $77 million in its opening weekend, but became the highest-grossing film of all time. It retains this title through several reissues.

The first film had an incredible run at the box office and ran in theaters until August 2010 for a staggering 234 days. Ultimately, Avatar earned $760 million in the US and Canada and over $2 billion in international markets during its first theatrical run.

“While the film starts off low on expectations, it’s important to re-emphasize the long-term outlook,” said Sean Robbins, chief media analyst at “Audiences are showing a preference for watching the film in premium formats, given the volatility noted in the preliminary projections.”

Robbins noted that the upcoming holiday corridor and the lack of competition in the market make The Way of the Water a better box office success than a typical blockbuster.

Premium formats, which include IMAX, Dolby Cinema and Motion, accounted for 62% of all tickets sold. A whopping 57% of that amount came from 3D tickets. Premium format tickets are more expensive than traditional tickets.

According to EntTelligence, 3D tickets for The Path of Water cost an average of $16.55 each, while 2D tickets cost $12.62 each.

“At this stage, it’s premature to judge the extent of the film’s success, especially given Cameron’s long run worldwide,” Robbins added.

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