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‘Avatar 2’ Will Have to Be One of the Highest-Grossing Movies Ever Just to Break Even

James Cameron told the studio that his costly sequel represents "the worst business case in movie history."

AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER, (aka AVATAR 2), Jake Sully (voice: Sam Worthington), 2022. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

“Avatar: The Way of Water”

©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

All eyes are on “Avatar: The Way of Water” to bring in major box office for Disney and 20th Century Studios once James Cameron’s costly sequel opens on December 16. Just how expensive is the movie? Cameron won’t say for sure, but reports indicate a production budget of $250 million, and that’s not including the film’s already vigorous marketing campaign.

In a recent interview with GQ, Cameron said the long-awaited follow-up to the 2009 original is “very fucking [expensive].” Cameron also revealed that he told the studio that the film represented “the worst business case in movie history.” The Oscar-winning director said that in order for the film to turn a profit, “you have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.”

Cameron has been vocal about his studio demands for finally getting “The Way of Water” off the ground 13 years after the first film. Elsewhere in the GQ interview, he spoke about cursing out a Fox executive who wanted him to shorten the original “Avatar,” which had a running time of more than 160 minutes. The running time of “The Way of Water” currently sits at 192 minutes.

“I said something I’ve never said to anybody else in the business,” Cameron recalled to GQ. “‘I think this movie is going to make all the fucking money. And when it does, it’s going to be too late for you to love the film. The time for you to love the movie is today. So I’m not asking you to say something that you don’t feel, but just know that I will always know that no matter how complimentary you are about the movie in the future when it makes all the money.’ And that’s exactly what I said, in caps, ALL THE MONEY, not some of the money, all the fucking money.”

Globally speaking, “Avatar” remains the highest-grossing film of all time, with a box-office take of more than $2.9 billion, factoring in the movie’s re-release in theaters back in September. The film is trailed by Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” at $2.7 million and Cameron’s own “Titanic” at $2.1 billion. It’s rare for movies to cross the $2 billion mark, though this pandemic year saw big success with “Top Gun: Maverick” ($1.4 billion so far) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($1.9 billion). “The Way of Water” is on track to potentially best “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at the box office come year’s end. Ryan Coogler’s Marvel sequel has so far grossed more than $545 million since opening on November 11.

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