James Cameron Is Prepared To Wrap Things Up With Avatar 3 If The Sequels Aren't Profitable

Considering that the first "Avatar" film is the highest-grossing picture of all time worldwide, one would assume that its long-awaited sequel "The Way of Water" will also blow up the box office when it is released on December 16, 2022. I don't expect it to match the original film's take. Expecting a movie to be the highest-grossing film of all time is folly. But I do expect it to make quite a bit of cash, particularly internationally. I mean, the first film made $76.5 million when it was re-released earlier this year on a limited three-week engagement. That's a 13-year-old movie that many people have already seen performing that well.

But there is always the possibility of "Avatar: The Way of Water" underperforming. If the picture isn't as transportive or gripping as the original, they may struggle to get people returning again and again and again to the theaters, which is what made "Avatar" such a phenomenon. Even though it's the biggest film ever, its opening weekend was only $77 million. People just could not stop coming back once they had seen it. So, if "The Way of Water," doesn't have that factor, it could spell trouble for one of the most expensive films of all time. Not only that, though. There are a total of four "Avatar" sequels planned, with the third one and part of the fourth already shot. When a studio makes that kind of investment in a property, they want a big return on it, and if "The Way of Water" underperforms, 20th Century Studios (aka Disney) could cut it off before it's reached the fifth movie. James Cameron is fully aware of this possibility and is willing to end the series after the third film if the audience for it isn't there.

'How many people give a s*** now?'

James Cameron has almost never had a major stumble at the box office. Who else can say that they had the highest-grossing film of all time and then beat that record with their next film? However, Cameron has not released a film in the streaming era yet. Sure, some films like "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness" make loads of cash still, but the theatrical hits are fewer and further between. In the December 2022 issue of Total Film (on sale November 10), Cameron expressed that he doesn't know how "Avatar: The Way of Water" will do financially but recognizes how important it is to reaching the fifth film:

"The market could be telling us we're done in three months, or we might be semi-done, meaning: 'Okay, let's complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly,' if it's just not profitable ... We're in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff, even. It's the one-two punch — the pandemic and streaming. Or, conversely, maybe we'll remind people what going to the theater is all about. This film definitely does that. The question is: how many people give a s*** now?"

I know I give a s*** about both "Avatar" and the prospering of cinemas. As for if the fourth and fifth films see the light of day, I just know that if James Cameron wants to direct them, which he has expressed a bit of doubt about, I will see them. Few directors working get to take the kinds of swings he does, and they should be supported. In our franchise-driven movie landscape, I predict we will reach the fifth movie.