Surging ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Grosses $8 Million More Sunday than Expected

The cumulative box office total for the weekend ended at $94 million, $7 million up from initial projections.
Avatar: The Way of Water
"Avatar: The Way of Water"
Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

As industry observers suggested yesterday, “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) did much better on Christmas than the studio initially estimated. The actual domestic gross was $29.5 million, not $21.5 million. The three-day weekend total was $64 million, not $54 million as originally stated, $261,682,000 cumulative.

That of course is a major positive sign for the film, with December 26 also a holiday that has usually grossed even better than Christmas. With eight more days of holiday play through January 2, based on the Christmas Day performance, James Cameron’s film could see an additional $150 million or more domestic box office added to its total. That would get it significantly over $400 million, before a fairly free ride for several weeks as the likely #1, even with decreasing totals. That suggests the film could see a domestic total closer to $600 million rather than the lower guess initial numbers were projecting.

The drop for the three days was 52 percent from opening weekend, as opposed to the 58 percent originally reported. This compares well to “Rogue One,” which dominated Christmas in 2016 when the calendar last matched up with this year. This is particularly significant since weather had a major impact both Friday and Saturday, further hurting box office.

Curiously, among the Top Ten films for the weekend, only “The Way of Water” didn’t more than double its Christmas Eve gross. That is not unusual when one film does most of the business. Significant pre-buys also could have aided it Saturday, with those who might otherwise have deferred still going.

#2 “Puss in Boots: The Next Exit” (Universal) improved more than $1 million for initial estimates, with $12,420,000. #3 “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (Sony) fell significantly from its initial estimate. It took in $4,765,000, not the $5,300,000 initially estimated. “Babylon” (Paramount), though improving by $100,000, was still a weak $3,600,000.

Other changes include “The Fabelmans” (Universal) actually improving over last weekend by 1 percent, with a very strong Sunday bring its weekend total to $750,000 from an initial $550,000, and rising to #7. From India, “Cirkus” (Reliance) ended up #10.

Previously unreported “No Bears” (Janus) from imprisoned Iranian director Jafar Panahi did a decent $10,000 in a New York exclusive run.

Though the better grosses for “The Way of Water” are indeed good news, the three-day weekend still took in only $94 million. That’s 62 percent less than 2019, when ticket prices were 20 percent lower, and down more than a third from last year (with a more favorable December 24-26 calendar).

The Top 10 (3-day estimates)

1. Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$64,000,000 (-582%) in 4,202 (no change) theaters; PTA (per theater average): $15,231; Cumulative: $261,682,000

2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 75; Est. budget: $90 million

$12,420,000 in 4,099 theaters; PTA: $3,030; Cumulative: $18,522,000

3. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: N/A Metacritic: 55; Est. budget: $45 million

$4,765,000 in 3,625 theaters; PTA: $1,314; Cumulative: $4,765,000

4. Babylon (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: $80 million

$3,600,000 in 3,343 theaters; PTA: $1,077; Cumulative: $3,600,000

5. Violent Night (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #3; also on PVOD

$3,530,000 (-30%) in 2,562 (-966) theaters; PTA: $1,378; Cumulative: $41,998,000

6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney) Week 7; Last weekend #2

$3,500,000 (-35%) in 2,250 (-1,130) theaters; PTA: $1,556; Cumulative: $426.155,000

7. The Whale (A24) Week 3; Last weekend #15

$1,009,000 (+597%) in 603 (+597) theaters; PTA: $1,673; Cumulative: $2,557,000

9. The Menu (Searchlight) Week 6; Last weekend #5

$680,000 (-58%) in 840 (-1,035) theaters; PTA: $810; Cumulative: $33,859,000

8. The Fabelmans (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #7; also on PVOD

$750,000 (+1%) in 1,122 (+167) theaters; PTA: $668; Cumulative: $9,924,000

10. Cirkus (Reliance) NEW

$(est.) 440,000 in 557 theaters; PTA: $790; Cumulative: $(est.) 440,000


Specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are tracked.

Corsage (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2022

$32,500 in theaters; PTA: $16,250

Women Talking (United Artists) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, New York 2022

$41,000 in 8 theaters; estimated PTA: $5,125

Living (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance, Telluride, Toronto 2022

$22.784 in 3 theaters; PTA: $7,595

No Bears (Janus) NEW – Metacritic: 90; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, New York 2022

$10,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $10,000

Empire of Light (Searchlight) Week 3

$83,000 in 350 (-86) theaters; PTA: $237; Cumulative: $679,584

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Neon) Week 5

$10,549 in 25 (-23) theaters; Cumulative: $251,230

EO (Janus) Week 6

$62,500 in 36 (+3) theaters; Cumulative: $343,545

The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight) Week 11; also on HBO Max and PVOD

$40,000 in 80 (-85) theaters; Cumulative: $8,896,000

TÁR (Focus) Week 12; also on PVOD

$17,000 in 36 (-27) theaters; Cumulative: $5,506,000

Triangle of Sadness (Neon) Week 12; also on VOD

$9,507 in 14 theaters; Cumulative: $4,086,000

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