Avatar 2’s Real Box Office Test Is Yet to Come

And yet, Cameron’s previous successes at the capturing the all-time records never played the game of Marvel movies or modern Disney-owned Star Wars pictures which, generally speaking, aim for front-loaded openings that make the biggest splash. Rather both 1997’s Titanic and the original Avatar opened relatively mildly for a blockbuster of their eras (sounds familiar) and then… just sat at the top of the box office. For weeks and months, with small diminishing drops weekend-on-weekend as audiences kept returning to the spectacle.

For further context, in its second weekend Titanic opened to $28.6 million on Dec. 19, 1997 (likely taking a hit due to opening opposite the second Pierce Brosnan James Bond picture, Tomorrow Never Dies) and then increased its box office in its second weekend by 23.8 percent, grossing $35.5 million in the days after Christmas. The weekend after that, it dropped a meager six percent while still grossing a healthy $33.3 million. And on, and on it played, not falling from the No. 1 spot in the U.S. until the weekend of April 3, 1998.

Similarly, 2009’s Avatar opened a lot smaller than the then-highest grossing superhero movies, with the opening weekend records being owned by Spider-Man 3 ($151.1 million) and then The Dark Knight ($158.4 million). In comparison, Avatar’s $77 million premiere looked modest. Nonetheless, in its second weekend of release (which included Christmas Day), Avatar dropped an absurdly modest 1.8 percent, grossing $75.6 million. The weekend after that, it fell only 9.4 percent more, still earning $68.5 million.

On and on it went until it claimed the highest grossing record from Titanic.

Now, thanks to Cameron, the bar for Avatar: The Way of Water’s success is high—if not the highest grossing film of all time then becoming only the sixth movie to ever gross more than $2 billion globally. However, the first real test is not its opening weekend but its second weekend where box office observers will be waiting in baited breath to see if it can pull off something as miraculous as the first film and drop only a handful of percentage points—or incredulously increase its grosses as Titanic did. And then it would need to do so again during its third weekend.

The harbingers in this regard are hard to read, however. According to the widely respected industry pollsters at CinemaScore, audiences gave Avatar: The Way of Water an “A” CinemaScore, which is glowing. However, it is less shiny than Spider-Man: No Way Home’s “A+” CinemaScore from last year, the latter of which signaled near unanimous adoration from movie audiences—not that it prevented Spidey from dropping 67.5 percent in its second weekend and 33.7 percent in its third.

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