Avatar: The Way Of Water Sails Past $850 Million Worldwide In Second Weekend At The Box Office

It has been a cold Christmas for many across the United States and Canada, where a prolonged winter storm left almost 1.5 million people without power and resulted in several dozen deaths. The weather outside is frightful, and many people have chosen to remain home (where the fire is so delightful), rather than venturing out to see the latest James Cameron title. And yet, "Avatar: The Way of Water" has nonetheless added another $64 million to its domestic box office total over the holiday weekend, and crossed the $850 million mark worldwide in just 10 days, per Variety.

Including Monday's numbers, which brought the four-day weekend total to $90 million, "The Way of Water" now stands at $287 million domestic; global numbers take longer to pin down, but Box Office Mojo is reporting that its worldwide total stands at $881 million, while other sources say it will pass $900 million by the end of Monday. 

As I mentioned last weekend, the real test will be how it performs in the coming weeks, seeing as the record-holding box office performance of the first "Avatar" movie was a marathon rather than a sprint. "Avatar" also had to battle through a winter storm back in 2009, but nonetheless grossed $75.6 million in its second weekend as Christmas audiences flocked to see it — a drop of just 1.8% from its opening weekend.

As Cameron himself has acknowledged, "Avatar: The Way of Water" is being tested in a very different box office landscape compared to the first movie. Theatrical releases have been struggling to recover to pre-pandemic levels, in part due to the rise of streaming and the shortening of theatrical windows. But while the second movie in Cameron's outer space saga doesn't have the same hype surrounding its use of 3D, it does have a solid "A" CinemaScore from audiences and "Certified Fresh" score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Speaking as someone who didn't care much for the first movie, "The Way of Water" is vastly better, with a less predictable story, a cast of plucky-yet-endearing kids, and a friendly space whale.

Beyond Pandora

While most studios are wisely avoiding sending major tentpoles up against the kaiju that is a new James Cameron movie, the temptation of the holiday box office did draw out a few competitors. "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" opened on Wednesday and has since grossed $26.9 million domestically and slightly more internationally, for a worldwide total of $57.2 million so far (per Variety). The animated sequel has been a hit with critics, landing a Rotten Tomatoes score of 95% and an "A" CinemaScore, so despite a smallish opening weekend it could continue to draw family audiences steadily over the next couple of months. These boots were made for walking, after all.

The forecast is less positive for Damien Chazelle's "Babylon," a film that aspires to follow in the Oscar-winning footsteps of Chazelle's "La La Land" (whose Best Picture mix-up somewhat overshadowed the fact that it won six statuettes and was the most-nominated title in its year of release). Unfortunately for "Babylon" — and for Steven Spielberg's "The Fabelmans," and Sam Mendes' "Empire of Light" — audiences don't seem to have much appetite for movies about the magic of cinema or the excesses of Hollywood right now. Chazelle's latest grossed just $3.6 million from 3,343 locations over the weekend and received a C+ CinemaScore from audiences — a disaster, given its $80 million production budget.

The final new release this weekend was the Whitney Houston biopic "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," which did a little better than "Babylon" with a nonetheless lower-than-expected $4.7 million over the weekend. For the sake of your local movie theater, if nothing else, let's hope that things look brighter for the box office in 2023.