James Camerons avatar was expensive and risky, but ultimately proved to be a worthwhile investment for 20th Century Fox, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time. The upcoming sequel, meanwhile, will need to do nearly that amount — a tough prospect in the post-Covid theatrical market — to break even. In what Cameron himself half-jokingly called the “worst business case in movie history,” Avatar: the way of the water delved deeper into the scope, world-building — and budget — of the first film. The result is a movie that gets early critical acclaim from the likes of Guilllermo del Toro, but will need to make a truly impressive amount of money to break even.
According to The Hollywood Reporterproduction on Avatar: the way of the water costing anywhere from $350 million to $400 million. For context, that’s between $50 and $100 million more than Warner Bros. disastrous Justice League film, which had an estimated break-even point of approximately $800 million.
Typically, big budget blockbusters have to recoup twice their production budget to recoup both the expenses of making the movie and the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars spent promoting it. In case of avatarit seems likely that Disney will consider anything less than about $1 billion a disappointment at the box office.
Of course, failing to meet internal goals wouldn’t make the film a failure.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been some movies that managed to achieve really impressive box office numbers. Spider-Man: No Way Home earned more than $1.9 billion, and Top gun: Maverick earned just under $1.5 billion. If The way of the water earns that kind of money, few would cry over the fact that it didn’t deserve it Avengers; Endgame or avatar money at the cash register.
There’s also the reality that Disney has invested a ton of money into the avatar brand as part of their theme park business. A modest box office success would still be a huge boost to the avatar-themed attractions that Disney owns, and that synergy means that taking home $900 million might not be a huge win, but in the grand scheme of things would still be a pretty big win.
Avatar: the way of the waterEarly projections say it will earn somewhere in the region of $150 million to $175 million on its opening weekend. That’s a little less than Black Panther: Wakanda Forever made at $181 million, but still one of the largest overall openings in the pandemic era.