Avatar sequel is third to Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion on global box office

Avatar: The Way Of Water sailed to the top of the box office in its second weekend, bringing in a strong US$58 million (S$78 million) in North America that suggests it may stay afloat into the new year and approach the massive expectations that met its release.

James Cameron’s digital extravaganza for 20th Century Studios has made US$253.7 million domestically in its first 10 days of release, compared to US$212.7 million in the same stretch for 2009’s first Avatar, which would go on to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

While Cameron’s films like the Avatar original and Titanic tend to have serious legs at the box office, sequels tend to open big and decline quickly, complicating guesses on where the film will end up. Its second-weekend drop-off from the US$134 million it made in its first was not precipitous, given the way blockbusters open.

“This is James Cameron’s first US$100 million opener,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, “For this movie to have opened that big and only dropped 58 per cent, it shows it has staying power.”

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Kate Winslet as Ronal (left) and Cliff Curtis as Tonowari in a scene from Avatar: The Way Of Water. (Photo: AP/20th Century Studios)

Globally, The Way Of Water is already the third highest-grossing film released in 2022, bringing in US$855 million  putting it behind only Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion  and is a lock to surpass US$1 billion.

It’s also clear sailing for the film looking ahead, with more holiday time coming and no comparable competition until February, when Marvel’s Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is released.

Storms across the US could keep people home, however. “The biggest foe that Avatar is facing at this moment is the weather,” Dergarabedian said.

This image released by DreamWorks Animation shows the characters Kitty Softpaws, voiced by Salma Hayek Pinault (left) and Puss in Boots voiced by Antonio Banderas from the animated film Puss In Boots: The Last Wish by director Joel Crawford. (Photo: AP/DreamWorks Animation)

Universal’s animated Shrek spinoff, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, featuring the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, finished a distant second with US$11.35 million in its opening weekend.

Sony’s biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody finished third with US$5.3 million.

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Naomi Ackie in Tristar’s Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody. (Photo: AP/Emily Aragones/Sony Pictures)

The weekend’s biggest disappointment was Babylon, the epic of early Hollywood from La La Land director Damian Chazelle starring Brad Pitt and and Margo Robbie. In a nationwide release it brought in just US$3.5 million, finishing fourth.

The tepid, US$6.5 million opening weekend in October of director David Russell’s Amsterdam, another film, set in a similar period, that combined prestige, scope, star power and a celebrated auteur, brought industry worries that audiences just weren’t flocking to theatres for such films.

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Brad Pitt (left) and Diego Calva in Babylon. (Photo: Paramount Pictures via AP/Scott Garfield)

The concerns proved justified as Babylon barely made more than half of the opening of Amsterdam.

The coming weeks in theatres, streaming showings and any nominations it may get could help Babylon rise above bomb status.

“I would say Babylon is a movie that isn’t about the opening weekend,” Dergarabedian said. “We’ll have to see what it does in the coming weeks then into the new year, particularly if it gets more awards buzz.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday (Dec 23) through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, according to Comscore, with Wednesday through Sunday in parentheses. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

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