Weekend Box Office: Avatar: The Way of Water Opens to $134.1M Domestic, $441.7M Global

Photo Credits: Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Avatar: The Way of Water")

Monday afternoon update: 20th Century Studios’ numbers for Avatar: The Way of Water came in slightly higher than originally projected, with a debut of $134.1M domestically, $307.6M overseas, and $441.7M globally.

Sunday Update:

Avatar: The Way of Water: domestic

20th Century Studios’ long-awaited science fiction sequel Avatar: The Way of Water had blue characters but saw green this weekend, with a $134.0M domestic and $434.5 million debut.

That’s the #6 opening of the year. It’s also the #38 opening of all time.

Compared to its predecessor, it’s also +74% above the opening of 2009’s original Avatar ($77.0M).

Playing in 4,202 theaters, it earned a $31,889 per-theater average. That’s the #12 average of the year. It’s also the #4 wide release average of the year, behind:

  1. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($41,337)
  2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($41,251)
  3. Thor: Love and Thunder ($32,952)

Water’s per-theater average is also +43% higher than the opening weekend for 2009’s original ($22,313)

Here are a few Way of Water stats, and how they compare to the opening weekend for September’s re-release of the original Avatar.

  • 3D made up 57% of the domestic earnings, far lower than for the original’s re-release (93%).
  • IMAX comprised 12% of the domestic opening ($16.5M), less than half the percentage IMAX comprised for the original’s re-release (29%).
  • The audience was 56% male, the exact same as for the original’s re-release.
  • The audience was 60% ages 25+, slightly higher than the original’s re-release (57%).
  • The per-theater average was 4.2x the original’s re-release ($7,471).

Avatar: The Way of Water: global

Water also debuted with a $300.5M overseas weekend in 52 markets, for a $434.5M global opening.

That’s the #2 global opening weekend of the year, behind only Multiverse ($452M). It’s also the #11 biggest global opening weekend ever. (Although that comparison is a bit inexact, since some films have staggered release dates in different markets, while Water debuted in most global markets simultaneously.)

In China, where the film was the first major non-Chinese release since Minions: The Rise of Gru back in August, the film earned $57.1M. That’s +39% higher than the first film’s China debut ($40.9M).

According to Disney and 20th Century Studios, the film earned 100% of its China opening from 3D showings.

Globally, the film earned 11% from IMAX ($48.8M), less than the percentage IMAX comprised of the original’s re-release (20%).

Water’s top overseas totals to date include:

  1. China ($57.1M)
  2. South Korea ($24.7M)
  3. Germany ($19.9M)
  4. France ($19.3M)
  5. India ($18.1M)
  6. U.K. ($14.2M)
  7. Mexico ($12.9M)
  8. Australia ($10.8M)
  9. Italy ($10.2M)
  10. Brazil ($8.5M)

Way of Water vs. Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick is currently the highest-grossing release of 2022, both domestically ($718.7M) and globally ($1.48B). Now that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever seems almost certain not to top either of those two marks, Water is the only remaining 2022 release with a chance to overtake Maverick. Will it?

Domestically, it’s doable, though perhaps unlikely. For comparison, the original Avatar earned $749.7M during its original run, or +4% above Maverick’s total. Whether Water will exceed Maverick will depend on how much the film drops in its second, third, and fourth frames. 

Globally, it’s much more likely for Water to take the crown. This is in no small part due to Avatar getting a China release while Maverick didn’t, though Water has opened in China as well. The original Avatar earned $2.74B, far larger than Maverick – more than $1B larger, in fact. 

It’s important to note that James Cameron’s films have traditionally been more backloaded, meaning much of their earnings occurred after their openings, as positive word of mouth spread.

Cameron said as much, warning in a recent interview: “We’ll know by the third weekend. You’re not going to know by the first weekend. Titanic didn’t work that way. Avatar didn’t work that way.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

After leading for five consecutive frames, the first film to do so since Spider-Man: No Way Home in January, Disney and Marvel Studios’ superhero sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever fell to second place with a -52% decline to $5.4M.

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)
  • Now, in its sixth weekend, it drops 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%
  • Now, in its sixth weekend: -68%

Through 38 days, Wakanda has now earned $418.9M total. Through the equivalent point in release, that’s:

  • -33% behind 2018’s Black Panther ($631.3M)
  • -25% behind May’s Top Gun: Maverick ($564.3M)
  • +5% above May’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($398.1M)
  • +16% above March’s The Batman ($358.9M)
  • +28% above July’s Thor: Love and Thunder ($325.4M)

Wakanda was running behind Multiverse through their first 11 days, but overtook it on their respective 12th days of release.

Wakanda was running ahead of Maverick through their first nine days, but fell behind on their respective 10th days of release.

Wakanda is currently the #2 film released in 2022 domestically, behind Maverick.

Overseas, Wakanda has earned $367.5M, for a $786.5M global total. That’s the #5 global title released in 2022 so far, behind Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, Multiverse, and Minions: The Rise of Gru.

The Whale

Last weekend, A24’s awards contender drama The Whale opened with the top per-theater average of 2022 so far, with $332,152 in a limited release of six theaters, for a $55,359 average.

That beat the prior 2022 record: March’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, with a $50,131 average.

This weekend, Whale remains in six theaters and earns an estimated $169K, for a $28,304 average. That’s the #15 weekend average of the year, even though it wasn’t the film opening’s weekend.

By comparison, while Everything’s opening weekend had a lower average than Whale’s, its second frame had a slightly average: $28,382.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Ahead of its domestic debut on Wednesday, Universal’s animated sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish added $3.8M overseas this weekend, for a $13.5M overseas total.

Top territories to date include France ($4.9M) and Italy ($2.5M).

Weekend comparisons

Total box office this weekend came in around $152.0M, which is:

  • 4.0x above last weekend’s total ($37.6M), when Black Panther: Wakanda Forever led for a fifth consecutive frame with $11.2M.
  • 3.4x above the equivalent weekend in 2021 ($43.9M), when West Side Story led with $10.5M.
  • +29% above the equivalent weekend in the last pre-pandemic year 2019 ($117.8M), when Jumanji: The Next Level led with $59.2M.

YTD comparisons

Year-to-date box office stands around $7.01B. That’s:

  • +82.6% above this same point in the pandemic recovery year of 2021 ($3.84B), down from +86.8% after last weekend.
  • –33.3% behind this same point in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year ($10.52B), up from -33.9% after last weekend. The peak was around -29.5%, set in mid-July.

Top distributors

  1. Universal ($1.46B)
  2. Disney ($1.33B)
  3. Paramount ($1.29B)
  4. Warner Bros. ($934.0M)
  5. Sony Pictures ($848.1M)
  6. 20th Century Studios, owned by Disney ($308.3M)

20th Century Studios almost doubled its yearly total in a single weekend, which stood at $174.3M through this Thursday, before Water’s release.

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

Title  Estimated weekend  % change Locations Location change Average  Total  Weekend Distributor
Avatar: The Way of Water $134,000,000   4,202   $31,890 $134,000,000 1 20th Century Studios
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $5,400,000 -52% 3,380 -345 $1,598 $418,991,185 6 Walt Disney
Violent Night $5,000,000 -43% 3,525 -198 $1,418 $34,962,085 3 Universal
Strange World $2,200,000 -42% 2,870 -690 $767 $33,778,060 4 Walt Disney
The Menu $1,700,000 -39% 1,875 -835 $907 $32,122,499 5 Searchlight
Devotion $825,000 -59% 2,211 -1,247 $373 $18,660,954 4 Sony Pictures
The Fabelmans $750,000 -36% 955 -18 $785 $8,665,926 6 Universal
Black Adam $500,000 -62% 1,304 -839 $383 $167,722,380 9 Warner Bros.
I Heard the Bells $308,893 -59% 426 -754 $725 $4,993,048 3 Fathom Events
Empire of Light $235,000 44% 436 326 $539 $471,821 2 Searchlight
Spoiler Alert $208,000 -69% 771 -12 $270 $1,246,358 3 Focus Features
Ticket to Paradise $172,000 -72% 531 -863 $324 $67,943,135 9 Universal
The Whale $169,827 -49% 6   $28,305 $596,136 2 A24
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile $135,000 -59% 423 -510 $319 $46,475,866 11 Sony Pictures
The Mean One $108,000 -51% 146 -16 $740 $442,350 2 Atlas Distribution
The Banshees of Inisherin $104,000 -37% 165 -105 $630 $8,795,205 9 Searchlight
Prey for the Devil $75,000 -55% 159 -127 $472 $19,757,519 8 Lionsgate
EO $59,500 49% 33 19 $1,803 $238,650 5 Janus Films
TÁR $42,000 -37% 63 -17 $667 $5,455,313 11 Focus Features
All The Beauty And The Bloodshed $34,295 -24% 48 13 $714 $217,921 4 Neon
She Said $33,000 -81% 121 -357 $273 $5,806,175 5 Universal
Decibel $2,361 -79% 3 -13 $787 $58,529 3 Wide Lens Pictures
Photo Credits: Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Avatar: The Way of Water")
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