Weekend Report: Avatar: The Way of Water Earns $53M Domestic First Day, Pacing for $130M+ Frame; Global Total at $180.1M through Friday

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

Saturday Update: Disney reports Avatar: The Way of Water posted a $53 million opening day domestically, including Thursday’s $17 million previews.

With the combined Thursday-Friday haul, Way of Water earns the sixth best opening day in December history, topping The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($37.1 million) and landing behind Spider-Man: No Way Home and four Star Wars films (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker, and Rogue One).

Projections remain in flux at this time, largely for reasons outlined below, as eyes now shift toward how much the James Cameron sequel increases from true Friday to Saturday. It bears repeating: this is not expected to be a front-loaded box office run, pending word of mouth. Early audience scores sit at a strong 94 percent.

With school break and vacations beginning for many this upcoming week, calendar alignment remains important in the context of assessing daily trends and how that impacts upfront demand.

That’s compounded by extenuating circumstances such as the lengthy runtime, consumer preference toward premium screens (many of which have very few ideal seats left unsold throughout the rest of the weekend), and the high volume of pre-sales measured beyond opening day.

Entering previews on Thursday, research film EntTelligence reported that 47 percent of weekend pre-sales were for Saturday and Sunday — much higher than the likes of recent Marvel films.

While it would be easy to jump to conclusions based on the Friday (or even the weekend) number alone, this film’s success will likely be determined by staying power in ways uncommon for major franchise pictures. Quite simply, the element of Avatar‘s lack of rush-out demand puts it in a different basket than the likes of Marvel and Star Wars films which have maintained a more consistent pop culture prominence in recent years.

Conservatively, Friday’s figure positions Way of Water for a domestic opening weekend around $130 million. That’s presuming similar internal weekend play patterns to 2016’s Rogue One. The Star Wars prequel increased 10 percent from true Friday to Saturday.

More bullishly, some models call for a stronger weekend performance that behaves more like an original and/or casual audience-centric film. That could yield a higher Saturday increase in the 20 to 50 percent range, or higher, bringing those optimistic weekend models up to around $150 million.

One potential comp to consider: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The animated pic jumped 42 percent from true Friday to Saturday back in December 2018. An upper-bound comp could be Jumanji: The Next Level‘s 82 percent bump.

International Update

Outside North America, Way of Water‘s international haul climbed to $127.1 million through Friday. That includes $23.5 million from China. Globally, the film has earned $180.1 million so far.

The film opened in another 8 markets yesterday. Key highlights from the studio are below.

Territories

GBO

   

China

$23.5M

Korea

$9.8M

France

$9.5M

Germany

$8.5M

India

$5.9M

Mexico

$5.9M

Australia

$5.4M

UK

$4.5M

Italy

$4.5M

Brazil

$3.7M

Other

$45.9M

   

Total

$127.1M

Friday key openers

Asia-Pacific

Opened #1 in all markets.

  • China:  First major release in the market since Minions: The Rise of Gru in August.  Incredible 98% market share.  Strong social scores; Maoyan 9.3, TPP 9.2, Douban 8.4 (Avatar: Maoyan 9.4, TPP 9.3, Douban 8.8).  Deteriorating conditions within the market with rapid and wide Covid outbreaks and people reluctant to leave homes.
  • India:  2nd highest ever opening day for any MPA film (behind only Avengers: Endgame) and 5th highest industry opening day ever including local product.  Strong 96% market share.  Extremely strong reviews.
  • Japan:  9th highest opening day during the pandemic era.  Positive social scores; Eiga.com 4.2/5, Filmarks 4.2/5, Yahoo 3.7/5 (Avatar: Eiga.com 3.8/5, Filmarks 3.5/5, Yahoo 3.8/5).
  • Vietnam:  2nd highest opening day during the pandemic era.  Incredible 98% market share.  Positive reactions.

Europe

Opened #1 in all markets.

  • UK:  4th highest Friday opening day in 2022.  Strong 83% market share.

  • Spain:  2nd highest opening day during the pandemic era.  Strong 86% market share.

  • Poland:  3rd highest opening day ever for any Disney release.  Strong 82% market share.

  • Turkey:  2nd highest industry opening day ever (behind only Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness).

  • Romania:  2nd highest industry opening day ever (behind only Fast & Furious 8).

  • South Africa:  3rd highest Friday opening day during the pandemic era.

Friday Update: Disney reports this morning that Avatar: The Way of Water earned $17 million from domestic previews beginning at 3pm on Thursday, while reaching $50.4 million after two days of international play from 44 markets.

That excludes a preliminary opening day projection of $18.5 million from China.

On the home front, Water‘s $17 million previews are mostly in line with realistic expectations.

That figure comes in 14 percent ahead of Top Gun: Maverick‘s Thursday-only preview gross of $14.9 million (excluding $4.4 million from its Tuesday and Wednesday shows), 6 percent behind Jurassic World Dominion‘s $18 million Thursday previews (held midsummer when school was out), and just 3 percent behind The Batman ($17.6 million from Thursday only).

As outlined in the final pre-weekend forecast, it’s still far too early to further narrow the range of outcomes for the opening frame.

$17 million in previews was baked into the lower band of forecasts ($145 million) based on the expectation that the Avatar sequel will play much less front-loaded than the likes of a Marvel or Star Wars blockbuster, particularly during this time of year, given the run time, premium screen audience preference and other factors.

More rationale behind that is detailed in the analysis linked above as it will continue to inform the remainder of the weekend.

For Thursday night, the studio reports that 61 percent of business came from 3D showtimes: 29 percent from traditional 3D, 15 percent from IMAX 3D, 14 percent from PLF, and 3 percent from Motion 3D.

On the international front, Disney opened James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel in an additional 29 markets yesterday, bringing the total to 44 material markets. The gross to-date is $50.4 million, not including any earnings from China which are initially pegged at $18.5 million.

The studio estimates the first two days of international results are 167 percent ahead of the original Avatar, 72 percent ahead of Top Gun: Maverick, 52 percent ahead of Jurassic World Dominion, and 39 percent behind Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The film opens in Spain, UK, China, and Japan, among others, on Friday.

IMAX specifically has earned $9.2 million globally through Thursday, including $2.63 million from North America.

The company does provide early China figures not included in studio reporting, citing $3.0 million from Wednesday and Thursday previews (56 percent of the nationwide box office haul so far and the second biggest IMAX opening in China ever).

More updates to follow throughout the weekend. Below are international grosses from Disney so far.

Territories

GBO

   

Korea

$5.9M

France

$5.7M

Germany

$4.6M

Mexico

$3.7M

Australia

$3.2M

Italy

$2.8M

Brazil

$2.4M

Indonesia

$1.5M

Thailand

$1.1M

Taiwan

$1.1M

Sweden

$1.0M

Hong Kong

$1.0M

Other

$16.4M

Total

$50.4M

IMAX Highlights

After 2 days, 20 South Korea IMAX screens earn $701K, 12% of the nationwide total (more than double our typical opening weekend % in the market). TWOW posted the 4th Highest IMAX Opening Day ever in Korea on Wednesday and 3rd Highest Thursday, achieving these rankings despite 5-6 Daily shows for AVATAR 2 versus 6-8 for Top 3 titles.

In France, IMAX posts its 2nd Highest IMAX Opening Day Ever on Wednesday, despite the World Cup Semi-final game at 8pm local time, which significantly impacted prime time box office results. France also posted the 2nd highest Thursday for IMAX. The 2-day France total is $475K from 17 IMAX screens.

Biggest Wednesday Ever: Czech and Serbia

2nd Highest Wednesday: France, Sweden, Norway, Germany

3rd Highest Wednesday: Belgium

4th Highest Wednesday: South Korea, Switzerland and Indonesia

5th Highest Wednesday: Denmark and Italy

6th Highest Wednesday: Austria, Portugal, Thailand, Malaysia

Biggest Thursday Ever: Singapore, Czech, and Serbia

2nd Highest Thursday: France, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Romania, Vietnam, Chile

3rd Highest Thursday: Germany, South Korea, South Africa, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Argentina

4th Highest Thursday: Greece

5th Highest Thursday: Sweden, Norway, Malaysia

6th Highest Thursday: Portugal, Slovakia

7th Highest Thursday: UAE, Indonesia

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