Weekend Box Office: Avatar: The Way of Water Scores Fourth-Highest Third Weekend Ever Domestically

Image courtesy: 20th Century Studios

Avatar: The Way of Water (domestic)

The true measure of box office success for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water was always going to come down to how well the film would hold as it entered its second and third weekends in the market. After opening with the #37 highest-earning debut frame of all-time in the domestic market, the sequel held on with the #30 sophomore frame, and has just finished the New Year’s corridor with the fourth-highest tally for a film in its third weekend. 

Last weekend, 20th Century Studios’ sci-fi sequel Avatar: The Way of Water dropped -53% in its sophomore frame to $63.3M. That more than doubled the combined debuts of its three new Christmas weekend competitors, all of which fell below expectations. Now in its third frame, the film increases <1% to $63.4M, easily holding onto third place.

The film earned the:

  • #37 opening weekend of all time ($134.1M), on the lower end of pre-release projections. That far exceeded 2009’s original Avatar, which falls outside the top 100 entirely on that measure.
  • Water increased slightly to the #30 second weekend of all time ($63.3M). That was below Avatar, which ranks #14 ($75.6M).
  • Now, it earns the #4 third weekend of all time. On that measure, Water ranks behind only 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($90.2M), Avatar ($68.4M), and 2018’s Black Panther ($66.3M).

Though 17 days, Water has now earned $421.5M. Compared to other comparable films through the same point in release…

Compared to other James Cameron films, it’s running:

  • 2.67x above 1997’s Titanic ($157.4M)
  • +19% above 2009’s Avatar ($352.1M)

Compared to other comparable $100M+ openers from 2022, it’s running:

  • +6% above May’s Top Gun: Maverick ($395.1M), after opening +5% above
  • +14% above November’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($367.4M), after opening -26% below
  • +22% above May’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($342.7M), after opening -28% below
  • +39% above June’s Jurassic World: Dominion ($303.0M), after opening -7% below
  • +40% above March’s The Batman ($300.0M), after opening almost exactly identically at <1% above
  • +52% above July’s Thor: Love and Thunder ($276.6M), after opening -7% below

Compared to the other biggest December releases from the past decade, it’s running:

  • -43% below 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($742.2M), after opening -46% below
  • -31% below 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home ($613.6M), after opening -48% below
  • -18% below 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($517.2M), after opening -39% below
  • -6% below 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ($451.5M), after opening -24% below
  • <-1% below 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($424.9M), after opening -13% below

Avatar: The Way of Water (overseas / global)

Overseas, Water has earned $956.9M, for a $1.37B global total. Top overseas totals to date include:

  1. China ($152.8M)
  2. France ($95.1M)
  3. South Korea ($74.9M)
  4. Germany ($67.2M)
  5. U.K. ($54.2M)
  6. India ($49.3M)
  7. Mexico ($37.3M)
  8. Australia ($34.3M)
  9. Italy ($30.5M)
  10. Spain ($28.3M)

So far, the film has earned 69.4% of its global total from overseas. That’s less than Avatar during its original run, at 72.7% overseas.

So far, China’s $152.8M has comprised 75% of the amount Avatar earned there during its original run ($202.6M).

Maverick is currently the highest-grossing release from 2022, both domestically ($718.7M) and globally ($1.48B). Currently, Water currently seems a more likely contender to defeat Maverick globally than domestically, particularly because it’s receiving a China release while Maverick did not.

Right now, Maverick is the #2 film from 2022 globally, behind only Maverick. It’s slightly lower on the domestic ranking at #3, behind those aforementioned films, behind Maverick and Wakanda.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Last week, the Universal / DreamWorks animation sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish debuted in second with $12.4M. That was below pre-release projections, which were closer to the $15M-$17M range.

Now in its sophomore frame, the film increases +31% to $16.3M to reclaim second place.

Since it’s a holiday New Year’s weekend, that renders most comparisons inexact, but 2011’s original Puss in Boots dropped -3% in its sophomore frame.

Since Wish was released on a Wednesday, its 12-day total stands at $59.9M. Compared to other films through the same point in release, that’s:

  • -24% below 2011’s Puss in Boots ($79.6M)
  • -36% below June’s Lightyear ($94.8M)
  • +23% above July’s DC League of Super Pets ($48.6M)

Compared to other major December animated releases from the past dozen years, Wish is running:

  • -5% below 2011’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked ($63.2M)
  • +24% above 2015’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip ($48.1M)
  • +27% above 2019’s Spies in Disguise ($47.0M)
  • -18% below 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ($73.5M)
  • -33% below 2021’s Sing 2 ($90.2M)

The Shrek / Puss in Boots series has shown consistently diminishing openings since the high water marks of the second and third installments. Through the same point in releasing, Wish is running:

  • -74% below 2004’s Shrek 2 ($236.9M)
  • -72% below 2007’s Shrek the Third ($220.9M)
  • -60% below 2010’s Shrek Forever After ($150.6M)
  • -24% below 2011’s spinoff Puss in Boots ($79.6M)

Overseas, Wish has earned $68.8M from 71 markets, for a $129.5M global total.

So far, the film has earned 53.1% of its global total from overseas. That’s considerably less than the original Boots during its run, at 73.1% overseas.

For comparison, Boots earned $405.7M overseas and $554.9M globally. Wish looks like it might not reach half of either number.

Top overseas totals to date for Wish include:

  1. France ($12.7M)
  2. Mexico ($6.6M)
  3. Germany ($5.1M)
  4. Italy ($4.3M)
  5. Spain ($3.2M)
  6. Australia ($3.4M)
  7. Colombia ($1.6M)
  8. Netherlands ($1.5M)
  9. Peru ($1.3M)
  10. Belgium ($1.3M)

It’s also earned a disappointing $1.2M so far from China.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

In its eighth weekend, the Disney / Marvel Studios superhero sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever improved +38% to $4.8M and third place.

That’s up three spots from its sixth-place finish last weekend, as I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Babylon, and Violent Night all fall below it.

Wakanda has now earned the:

  • #13 opening weekend of all time ($181.3M)
  • #27 second weekend of all time ($66.4M)
  • #13 third weekend of all time ($45.5M)
  • A sharp drop to the #80 fourth weekend of all time ($17.5M)
  • #92 fifth weekend of all time ($11.2M)
  • In its sixth, seventh, and now eighth weekends, it dropped out of the top 100 of all time

Compared to 2018’s original Black Panther, Wakanda’s weekends have come in:

  • Opening weekend: -10%
  • Second weekend: -40%
  • Third weekend: -31%
  • Fourth weekend: a notably steeper -57%
  • Fifth weekend: -58%
  • Sixth weekend: -68%
  • Seventh weekend: -69%
  • Now in its eighth weekend: -44%

With $437.9M domestically to date, Wakanda is currently the #2 film released in 2022 domestically, behind Maverick.

Overseas, Wakanda has earned $380.5M, for an $818.5M global total. That’s the #6 global title released in 2022 so far, behind Maverick, Water, Dominion, Multiverse, and Minions: The Rise of Gru.

So far, Water has earned 46.4% of its global total from overseas. That’s slightly less than Panther during its original run, at 48.0% overseas.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Last weekend, Sony Pictures’ Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody said “Houston, we have a problem” with a third-place debut of $4.7M.

That was below pre-release projections, which were around $9M-$10M.

Now in its sophomore frame, Dance declines -11% to $4.2M and fourth place.

Since it’s a holiday New Year’s weekend, that drop was surely lower than it otherwise would have been. Still, compared to the sophomore drops for some other musician biopics:

  • 2005’s Walk the Line about Johnny Cash (-14% on Thanksgiving weekend, falling -50% the next weekend)
  • 2004’s Ray, about Ray Charles (-32%)
  • June’s Elvis (-41%)
  • 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody about Freddie Mercury and the band Queen (-39%)
  • 2019’s Rocketman about Elton John (-46%)
  • 2015’s Straight Outta Compton about rap group N.W.A. (-56%)
  • 2021’s Respect about Aretha Franklin (-57%)
  • 2009’s Notorious about the Notorious B.I.G. (-72%)
  • 2017’s All Eyez on Me about Tupac (-78%)

Overseas, Dance has earned $13.1M from 44 markets, for a $27.9M global total. The film has earned about 47% of its total from overseas.

Babylon

Last week, Paramount’s Roaring Twenties comedy Babylon fell flat with a fourth-place debut of $3.6M. That was below the “already low” pre-release projections, closer to the $6M-$7M range.

Now in its sophomore frame, it drops -24% to $2.7M and fifth place.

Since it’s a holiday New Year’s weekend, that drop was surely lower than it otherwise would have been. Still, compared to the sophomore drops for some other similar films:

  • October’s Amsterdam, also set in the 1920s and also starring Margot Robbie (-57%)
  • February’s Death on the Nile (-49%)
  • 2002’s Chicago, another Roaring Twenties-set film (-35%, after first rising by +18%)
  • 2011’s Midnight in Paris, also set in the 1920s (-16%)
  • Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s 2016 La La Land (-42%, after first rising by +43%)
  • Although not in the same genre, Chazelle’s prior theatrical release, 2018’s First Man (-48%)

[Read Boxoffice PRO’s interviews with Babylon composer Justin Hurwitz here and costume designer Mary Zophres here.]

Limited releases

A Man Called Otto

Ahead of a wide expansion on January 13, Sony Pictures’ comedy A Man Called Otto opened with $61K in four theaters, for a $15,250 per-theater average. That’s the #38 average of 2022.

Women Talking

Ahead of a wide expansion on January 6, last weekend United Artists Releasing’s drama Women Talking opened with a disappointing $40,530 in eight theaters, for a $5,066 per-theater average. That fails to even crack the top 100 averages of 2022.

Now in its second frame, it improves by +1% to $41K in that same eight theaters, for a slightly better (but still disappointing) $5,125 average.

Weekend comparisons

Total box office this weekend came in around $98.5M, which is:

  • +4% above last weekend’s total ($94.6M), when Avatar: The Way of Water led for a second consecutive frame with $63.3M.
  • -31% below the equivalent weekend in 2021 ($143.8M), when Spider-Man: No Way Home led for a second consecutive frame with $84.5M.
  • -50% below the equivalent weekend in the last pre-pandemic year 2019 ($197.1M), when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker led for a second consecutive frame with $72.3M.

YTD comparisons

2022’s final box office came in around $7.45B. That’s:

  • +66.3% above the pandemic recovery year of 2021 ($4.48B)
  • -34.3% below the last full pre-pandemic year of 2019 ($11.36B)

Top distributors

Through the end of the 2022 calendar year, on Saturday:

  1. Universal ($1.53B)
  2. Disney ($1.35B)
  3. Paramount ($1.29B)
  4. Warner Bros. ($934.1M)
  5. Sony Pictures ($862.2M)
  6. 20th Century Studios, owned by Disney ($574.9M)

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

Title  Estimated weekend  % change Locations Location change Average  Total  Weekend Distributor
Avatar: The Way of Water $63,444,000   4,202   $15,099 $421,561,914 3 20th Century Studios
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish $16,250,000 31% 4,121 22 $3,943 $60,657,330 2 Universal
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $4,830,000 38% 2,310 60 $2,091 $437,975,653 8 Walt Disney
I Wanna Dance With Somebody $4,250,000 -11% 3,625   $1,172 $14,870,000 2 Sony Pictures
Babylon $2,730,000 -24% 3,351 8 $815 $10,139,000 2 Paramount
Violent Night $2,120,000 -40% 2,563 1 $827 $47,510,295 5 Universal
The Whale $1,330,685 28% 623 20 $2,136 $5,777,882 4 A24
The Fabelmans $1,140,000 53% 1,149 27 $992 $12,215,220 8 Universal
The Menu $1,070,000 58% 860 20 $1,244 $36,128,899 7 Searchlight
Strange World $538,000 30% 1,240 -150 $434 $37,029,290 6 Walt Disney
Devotion $330,000 83% 380 -47 $868 $19,934,075 6 Sony Pictures
Empire of Light $130,000 51% 300 -50 $433 $964,567 4 Searchlight
Ticket to Paradise $73,000 93% 102 -3 $716 $68,226,230 11 Universal
The Banshees of Inisherin $71,000 84% 75 -5 $947 $9,052,962 11 Searchlight
A Man Called Otto $61,000   4   $15,250 $61,000 1 Sony Pictures
EO $60,713 56% 44 8 $1,380 $444,152 7 Janus Films
TÁR $50,000 192% 45 9 $1,111 $5,598,760 13 Focus Features
Women Talking $41,000 1% 8   $5,125 $147,520 2 United Artists
Corsage $30,000 -7% 3 1 $10,000 $80,364 2 IFC Films
Broker $28,236   4   $7,059 $53,507 1 Neon
No Bears $6,650 8% 1 n/c $6,650 $22,104 2 Janus Films

News Stories