Weekend Box Office Forecast: Avatar: The Way of Water Goes for 7th Straight Crown as Specialty Releases and Oscar Candidates Take the Stage

Photo Credits: Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Avatar: The Way of Water"); Universal & Blumhouse ("M3GAN"); Sony ("A Man Called Otto"); Universal ("Puss in Boots: The Last Wish"); A24 ("Everything Everywhere All at Once"); Universal ("The Fabelmans")

Another weekend and another runaway box office victory are on deck for James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

Having crossed the $600 million domestic threshold this week, shortly after becoming the sixth film in history to reach $2 billion globally, the blockbuster sequel has one more week virtually unrivaled atop the charts.

In doing so, it would pass Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s six total weekends in first place last year for a new post-pandemic market record, having already topped the mid-pandemic benchmarks set by Tenet and The Croods: A New Age (five each).

Cameron’s sequel was just nominated for Best Picture, among other Academy Award categories, offering an appropriate transition into this weekend’s other narratives as it will be intriguing to see how fellow nominees perform in nationwide expansions.

While nine of the ten Best Picture nominees were theatrical-first releases, the most commercially successful of them (other than Way of Water) — such as Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and Everything Everywhere All at Once — already ended their initial box office runs months ago and have been available at home in various formats for some time.

Conversely, several key nominees remain in the midst of their initial cinematic play due to releasing later in 2022.

While A24’s Everything Everything is looking at a significant reissue of close to 1,500 theaters, Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is perhaps the most intriguing of expansions. The latter film is estimated to nearly double its current location to approximately 2,000 this weekend for the first truly nationwide footprint of its run so far.

Other films like The Banshees of Inisherin, Tár, and Women Talking are also expanding back into moderate release. As of this report, no counts were available for Neon’s Triangle of Sadness or — obviously — Netflix’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

The underlying narrative, of course, is the question about how much of an “Oscar bump” any of these films can receive. Pre-pandemic, it would be safe to expect significant box office boosts from at least a few of the recently released films.

As this year’s crop of prestige titles have already struggled in recent months, though, it remains to be seen how much impact award consideration will have on these theatrical expansions with many of them already available to stream at home.

Below is a list of expected Oscar candidate location counts as of Wednesday morning. Please note that none of these have been confirmed by their respective studios.

  • Avatar: The Way of Water (~3,700)
  • The Banshees of Inisherin (~1,200)
  • Elvis (~900)
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once (~1,500)
  • The Fabelmans (~2,000)
  • Living (~700)
  • Tár (~600)
  • Top Gun: Maverick (~500)
  • Women Talking (~700)

Several new releases will play the field this weekend, too, with fair chances at disrupting many of the nominees’ efforts to crack the top ten. Of the four, Neon’s Infinity Pool and Fathom Events’ Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist are tracking fairly well as specialty titles in pre-release and sales cycles.

We’re not currently offering forecasts on Hidden Empire Releasing’s Fear (unrolling at around 1,000 locations) or Yash Raj Films USA’s Pathaan, but the latter has generated strong sales leading up to its Wednesday release and looks to be another film with major upset potential to scale the box office chart with around 700 venues this weekend.

Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections

Current projection ranges call for a 20 to 25 percent decline from last weekend’s $70.8 million top ten aggregate.

Film Studios 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, January 29 Fri Location Count Projection (as of Wed) 3-Day % Change from Last Wknd
Avatar: The Way of Water Disney & 20th Century Studios $15,500,000 $620,500,000 ~3,700 -23%
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Universal Pictures & DreamWorks Animation $10,700,000 $141,000,000 ~3,600 -9%
A Man Called Otto Sony & Columbia Pictures $6,900,000 $46,100,000 ~3,700 -22%
M3GAN Universal Pictures & Blumhouse $6,700,000 $82,900,000 ~3,500 -31%
Missing Sony & Screen Gems $5,100,000 $17,200,000 ~3,025 -44%
Plane Lionsgate $3,600,000 $25,100,000 ~2,900 -32%
Infinity Pool Neon $2,200,000 $2,200,000 ~2,000 NEW
Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist Fathom Events $1,800,000 $1,800,000 ~1,700 NEW
The Whale A24 $1,100,000 $15,000,000 ~1,700 -14%
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Disney & Marvel Studios $1,000,000 $453,300,000 ~1,200 -26%

All forecasts are subject to revision/finalization before the first confirmation of opening previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are either studio estimates OR unofficial projections if preceded by “~”.

The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

Photo Credits: Disney & 20th Century Studios ("Avatar: The Way of Water"); Universal & Blumhouse ("M3GAN"); Sony ("A Man Called Otto"); Universal ("Puss in Boots: The Last Wish"); A24 ("Everything Everywhere All at Once"); Universal ("The Fabelmans")

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