After “T2” became a massive hit, Cameron would be granted an actual budget of $100 million for his next movie, “True Lies” which also included a ridiculous amount of stunts and a budget that was pushed to its limits. At the time, $100 million was a record, but it seems plausible that record might, in reality, belong to “Terminator 2.” Either way, Cameron would continue his trend with “Titanic” in 1995 which came in at $200 million, and “Avatar” which cost $237 million.
Now, with “Avatar: The Way of Water” finally out in the world, Cameron has made what might be his most expensive movie yet. But just like back in 1991, nobody actually knows how much he spent this time around. According to the director, the movie was “very f****** expensive” and “the worst business case in movie history.”
Frankly, at this point we expect nothing less. If Cameron can repeat his sequel success with the “Avatar” follow-up, he’ll cement his status as the king of the sequel and prove once again that giving him a lot of money isn’t as big a risk as it might seem. Although this time, he’s said the movie has to become the “third or fourth highest-grossing film in history” to break even, which would mean it has to make at least around $2 billion for 20th Century Studios to recoup their money. That seems like an insane figure, but if Cameron’s proved anything it’s that he can not only stretch a budget to its absolute breaking point, but that he can make it all right back.
It’s worth noting that Carolco actually did end up going bankrupt a few years later, and the company’s willingness to throw big money around was definitely a factor. But it left behind a legacy that includes not only “T2” but also “Total Recall,” “Basic Instinct,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” and the first three “Rambo” movies. Now that’s money well-spent.