Weekend Box Office: Avatar: The Way of Water Tops the Market as New Christmas Releases Fall Flat

Photo Credits: 20th Century Studios / Disney ("Avatar: The Way of Water"); Universal & DreamWorks ("Puss in Boots: The Last Wish"); Linus Sandgren & Paramount ("Babylon"); Sony Pictures ("I Wanna Dance with Somebody")

Avatar: The Way of Water (domestic)

20th Century Studios’ sci-fi sequel Avatar: The Way of Water dropped -58% in its sophomore frame to $56.0M, more than doubling the cumulative debuts of the three new titles to hit theaters this Christmas weekend, all of which fell below expectations.

After earning the #37 opening weekend of all time ($134.1M), on the lower end of pre-release projections, it now earns the #49 second weekend of all time, a slight drop on that ranking.

Its “mid-50s” weekend also falls slightly steeper than projections, which were generally in the mid-$50M to low-$60M range.

Compared to other James Cameron films, Water’s sophomore drop was far steeper than:

  • 1997’s Titanic (+24%)
  • 2009’s Avatar (-2%)
  • A bit steeper than September’s Avatar theatrical re-release (-52%)

Compared to other comparable $100M+ openers from 2022, it was steeper than:

  • May’s Top Gun: Maverick (-29%)
  • March’s The Batman (-50%)
  • July’s Minions: The Rise of Gru (-57%)

However, it was a milder drop than:

  • June’s Jurassic World: Dominion (-59%)
  • November’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (-63%)
  • May’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (-67%)
  • July’s Thor: Love and Thunder (-68%)

Compared to the other biggest December openings from the past decade, it was steeper than:

  • 2018’s Aquaman (-23%)
  • 2014’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (-25%)
  • 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens (-40%)
  • 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (-56%)
  • 2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (-57%)

However, it was milder drop than:

  • 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (-59%)
  • 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (-59%)
  • 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home (-67%)
  • 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi (-67%)

Through 10 days, Water has earned $253.6M. That’s:

  • -46% below Spider-Man: No Way Home ($470.4M)
  • -14% below Top Gun: Maverick ($295.6M)
  • -11% below Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($287.1M)
  • +19% above Avatar ($212.7M)
  • 2.86x above Titanic ($88.4M)

Avatar: The Way of Water (overseas / global)

Overseas, Water has earned $601.7M, for a $855.4M global total. Top overseas totals to date include:

  1. China ($100.5M)
  2. South Korea ($53.0M)
  3. France ($52.3M)
  4. India ($37.0M)
  5. Germany ($35.7M)
  6. U.K. ($30.3M)
  7. Mexico ($26.3M)
  8. Australia ($20.4M)
  9. Italy ($18.4M)
  10. Brazil ($16.9M)

So far, the film has earned 70.3% of its global total from overseas. That’s less than Avatar during its original run, at 72.7% overseas.

So far, China’s $100.5M has comprised 49% of the amount Avatar earned there during its original run ($202.6M).

Maverick is currently the highest-grossing release of 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, Water is the #5 film from 2022 globally, behind Maverick ($1.48B), Dominion ($1.00B), Multiverse ($955.7M), and Gru ($939.4M).

Right now, it’s slightly lower on the domestic ranking at #8, behind those aforementioned films plus Wakanda, The Batman, and Thunder.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

The Universal / DreamWorks animation sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish debuted in second place with a $11.3M three-day weekend gross. That’s below pre-release projections, which were closer to the $15M-$17M range.

The film earned an “A” CinemaScore, with an audience that was an estimated 50% male, 34% Hispanic, and 56% younger than age 18.

Since the film was released last Wednesday, its five-day total stands at $18.2M. Compared to the five-day totals for other comparable films, that’s:

  • -52% below 2011’s Puss in Boots ($38.6M)
  • -37% below July’s DC League of Super Pets ($29.3M)

Compared to other comparable December animated releases from the past dozen years, its five day total is:

  • -38% below 2011’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked ($29.4M)
  • -14% below 2015’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip ($21.2M)
  • -18% below 2019’s Spies in Disguise ($22.2M)
  • -57% below 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ($42.4M)
  • -67% below 2016’s Sing ($55.8M)
  • -51% below December 2021’s Sing 2 ($37.9M)

The Shrek / Puss in Boots series has shown consistently diminishing openings since the high water marks of the second and third installment:

  • 2004’s Shrek 2 ($108.0M opening / $128.9M five-day total after opening on a Wednesday)
  • 2007’s Shrek the Third ($121.6M opening)
  • 2010’s Shrek Forever After ($70.8M)
  • 2011’s spinoff Puss in Boots continued the decline ($34.0Mopening / $38.6M through five days)

Overseas, Wish has earned $32.5M from 53 markets, for a $50.7M global total. The film had previously begun its overseas rollout earlier in December. Top overseas totals to date include:

  1. France ($8.6M)
  2. Mexico ($3.1M)
  3. Italy ($3.0M)
  4. Germany ($1.4M)
  5. Spain ($1.1M)

I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Sony Pictures’ Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody failed to connect with audiences, opening in third place with a $5.3M bow. That’s below pre-release projections, which were around $9M-$10M.

Somebody opens -39% below 2021’s Respect, the biopic about Aretha Franklin, which was itself considered a box office disappointment ($8.8M). 

Compared to the opening weekends for other musician biopics, Somebody also starts:

  • -83% below June’s Elvis ($31.2M)
  • -89% below 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody, about Freddie Mercury and Queen ($51.0M)
  • -91% below 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, about N.W.A. ($60.2M)
  • -79% below 2019’s Rocketman, about Elton John ($25.7M)
  • -80% below 2017’s All Eyez on Me, about Tupac ($26.4M)
  • -76% below 2005’s Walk the Line, about Johnny Cash ($22.3M)
  • -74% below 2009’s Notorious, about the Notorious B.I.G. ($20.4M)  
  • -73% below 2004’s Ray, about Ray Charles ($20.0M)

Overseas, the film debuted with $2.6M in 31 markets, for a $7.9M global total.


Paramount’s Roaring Twenties comedy Babylon opened to a fourth place debut of $3.5M. That’s below the “already low” pre-release projections closer to the $6M-$7M range.

It’s far lower than the wide openings or biggest weekends for:

  • -45% below October’s Amsterdam, also set in the 1920s and also starring Margot Robbie ($6.4M)
  • -72% below February’s Death on the Nile ($12.8M)
  • -67% below the wide opening of 2002’s Chicago, another Roaring Twenties-set film ($10.7M)
  • -40% below the biggest weekend of 2011’s Midnight in Paris, also set in the 1920s ($5.8M)
  • -76% behind the biggest weekend for writer-director Damien Chazelle’s 2016 La La Land ($14.5M)
  • Although not in the same genre, -78% behind the opening for Chazelle’s prior theatrical release, 2018’s First Man ($16.0M)

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

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

In its seventh weekend, the Disney / Marvel Studios superhero sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever fell -43% to $3.0M and sixth place.

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)
  • Last frame, in its sixth weekend, 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%
  • Now, in its seventh weekend: -73%

With $425.6M domestically to date, Wakanda is currently the #2 film released in 2022 domestically, behind Maverick.

Overseas, Wakanda has earned $373.8M, for a $799.5M 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.

Weekend comparisons

Total box office this weekend came in around $84.2M, which is:

  • -45% below last weekend’s total ($152.8M), when Avatar: The Way of Water led with $134.1M.
  • -70% below the equivalent weekend in 2021 ($282.9M), when Spider-Man: No Way Home led with $260.1M.
  • -66% below the equivalent weekend in the last pre-pandemic year 2019 ($247.8M), when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker led with $177.3M.

YTD comparisons

Year-to-date box office stands around $7.19B. That’s:

  • +71.4% above this same point in the pandemic recovery year of 2021 ($4.19B), down from +82.6% after last weekend.
  • –33.8% behind this same point in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year ($10.87B), down from -33.3% after last weekend. The peak was around -29.5%, set in mid-July.

Top distributors

  1. Universal ($1.49B)
  2. Disney ($1.34B)
  3. Paramount ($1.29B)
  4. Warner Bros. ($934.1M)
  5. Sony Pictures ($854.1M)
  6. 20th Century Studios, owned by Disney ($428.0M)

Sunday’s Studio Weekend Estimates:

Title  Estimated weekend  % change Locations Location change Average  Total  Weekend Distributor
Avatar: The Way of Water $56,000,000 -58% 4,202   $13,327 $253,681,686 2 20th Century Studios
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish $11,350,000   4,099   $2,769 $18,253,000 1 Universal
I Wanna Dance With Somebody $5,300,000   3,625   $1,462 $5,300,000 1 Sony Pictures
Babylon $3,500,000   3,343   $1,047 $3,500,000 1 Paramount
Violent Night $3,140,000 -38% 2,562 -963 $1,226 $41,608,460 4 Universal
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever $3,022,000 -43% 2,250 -1,130 $1,343 $425,677,401 7 Walt Disney
The Menu $617,000 -62% 840 -1,035 $735 $33,796,843 6 Searchlight
The Fabelmans $550,000 -26% 1,122 167 $490 $9,724,456 7 Universal
Strange World $410,000 -81% 1,390 -1,480 $295 $35,599,242 5 Walt Disney
Devotion $180,000 -77% 427 -1,784 $422 $19,263,075 5 Sony Pictures
Empire of Light $71,000 -68% 350 -86 $203 $667,584 3 Searchlight
The Banshees of Inisherin $36,000 -64% 80 -85 $450 $8,891,686 10 Searchlight
Ticket to Paradise $24,000 -86% 105 -426 $229 $68,062,570 10 Universal
TÁR $15,000 -64% 36 -27 $417 $5,503,533 12 Focus Features
Photo Credits: 20th Century Studios / Disney ("Avatar: The Way of Water"); Universal & DreamWorks ("Puss in Boots: The Last Wish"); Linus Sandgren & Paramount ("Babylon"); Sony Pictures ("I Wanna Dance with Somebody")

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