The Way of Water’s Box Office Is Big, But Is It Big Enough?

Jan 3, 2023

A billion-dollar question that will need more than a billion dollars to be answered.

Concerns around the success of the much-awaited Avatar sequel Way of Water have been making rounds for quite a long time now. And these concerns are not because sequels often fail to follow the success of their predecessors. Reported to have a budget of nearly half a billion dollars, Way of Water is by far the most ambitious and expensive film in history. But this is just a rumored estimate without accounting for the other expenses, considering James Cameron has been heavily invested in the project since the release and success of the first film. Cameron even admitted to GQ that the movie would have to become the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history to break even. With the film grossing over half a billion dollars at the global box office within the first week of its release, the goal seems achievable, but will that be enough to sustain Cameron’s ambitious franchise that has multiple movies in production? That’s a billion-dollar question that will need more than a billion dollars to be answered.

Avatar became the first film ever to pass $2.9 billion at the all-time global box office with its latest re-release that provided audiences another chance to refresh their memories and ready themselves to welcome Pandora back again in December upon Way of Water’s release. The film was made on a budget of $237 million with another $150 billion set aside for marketing. Compared to that, Way of Water’s budget lies somewhere between $350-450 dollars with no official confirmation on the exact amount. Even if the official confirmation comes in, the actual amount of money that went into Way of Water will still remain a clouded figure considering the multiple delays the film has suffered over the years. While audiences who have witnessed the CGI and 3D marvel that Way of Water is will agree that the money behind the film was put to good use, the real question is whether Way of Water will prove that the project is an economically sustainable one or is it time for Cameron to put a limit to his ambitions?

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Factors In Favor Of Way Of Water

After achieving one of the highest openings in the last couple of years, Way of Water has a few factors playing in its favor. Firstly, the 13-year-long wait has definitely managed to create hype that few other films have enjoyed lately. It’s not only the long wait that has contributed to the hype but also the visually awe-inspiring experience that the original film brought with it. Understandably, the original film has had its fair share of criticism over the years. However, the technical achievements and the visual brilliance that Avatar offered in theatres all those years back is not one that has been replicated a lot ever since. Importantly, even critics of Avatar have been curious to know what freshness Cameron brings this time around.

Another crucial aspect behind Way of Water’s initial success at least is the fact that Avatar appeals to a wider audience base. It’s not just the young superhero fandom or the action-adventure movie watchers club that wants to know what happened next with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). In many markets around the globe, the Avatar franchise is more than just a 3D sci-fi action adventure. Avatar offered something for fans of all genres including romance, action, and sci-fi. For those who weren’t interested at all in what was going on story-wise, Avatar offered a lot in terms of a visual experience with which one can go home after the movie. Also, audiences who witnessed the original marvel back in 2009 might just be curious about whether the wait was worth it. With new audiences also pouring in, Way of Water can expect to cover some ground in its early weeks.

What’s the Target Box Office For Way Of Water?

Image via 20th Century Studios

If one is to believe what the maker of the film said, Way of Water will have to rank among the top 5 highest-grossing films of all time. With Avatar already sitting on the top of that list with $2.9 billion in box-office collection, it might look like an easy job. But it may not be that easy considering that Way of Water will have to hit the $2 billion mark – a feat only achieved by 4 other films apart from Avatar. It’s good news for Cameron that he has achieved it twice with Titanic ranking 3rd presently. As per Cameron, Way of Water will have to meet the success of his own Titanic and Star Wars: The Force Awakens to break even before it starts making a profit. But an important aspect to consider here is that Avatar 3 was also produced simultaneously. So one cannot be sure whether Cameron accounted for the production cost for the two other sequels that he plans to release in the coming years when he made the statement about Way of Water’s box-office target.

Does that mean that a whopping $2 billion was spent on bringing the Na’vi back? Now while that’s a question that Cameron and Jon Landau can answer, it is to be noted here that only five movies released after 2015 have grossed over $1.5 billion globally with this year’s Top Gun: Maverick slowly inching closer to the said milestone. If all these numbers and statistics are taken into account, it becomes clear that the way ahead for Way of Water is not going to be an easy one. Importantly, post the pandemic, only Spider-Man: No Way Home has breached the list of top 10 highest-grossing films of all time with Furious 7 sitting at the number 10 spot with $1.52 billion. Everyone knows that quite a few things propelled the third film in Tom Holland starring Spider-Man trilogy to an overall collection of $1.92 billion. If anything, it took three Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) to make it possible.

RELATED: All the Ways ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’s Plot Is Similar to the First Movie

Avatar 3’s Chances Are The Strongest

Image via 20th Century Studios

Some parallels can also be drawn between Avatar and Way of Water. The first film had opened low but picked up pace over the coming months. When compared to the original, Way of Water has had a phenomenal opening week. Whether the sequel will manage the same numbers in the coming weeks and months could be arguable given how the entertainment industry has transformed over the years. It has only become easier for audiences to move over a film. But despite all this, Way of Water can capitalize on its holiday release and continue to cruise toward the $2 billion mark. A lot will depend on the reception the other films will get in the coming weeks though as Way of Water is expected to get some competition after its honeymoon period gets over. It’s still too early to say whether Way of Water will touch the $2 billion mark and make itself a profitable project.

Way of Water’s success is important because it will determine the nature of the backing and money that the makers can put into future films. For Way of Water, the film had a lot of things going on for the past 13 years since the original’s release, resulting in the success that it garnered in its first two weekends in theaters. Everyone can acknowledge how Avatar had become an iconic cultural behemoth for the entertainment industry post its unprecedented success. The job for Way of Water is to take Avatar’s legacy forward, and it has managed to do that as far as critical and fan reception goes with many agreeing that the sequel is a step up from the predecessor. While Way of Water’s box-office collection would be a dream run for any film, it still has a long way to go given things are expected to slow down from hereon. Although its final numbers may have an impact on the future of the Avatar franchise which has multiple planned films in the pipeline, Way of Water’s initial success has potentially guaranteed that Avatar 3 can be expected to follow, even if it is just to bring closure to Jake Sully and Neytiri’s saga with one final film in could make it the Avatar trilogy.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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