On February 10th, we will see if audiences are ready to go back to Titanic. The James Cameron romance pic/disaster flick is being re-released on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. This is just as Avatar: The Way of Water wraps up its seven-week #1 domestic stand with $2 billion+ worldwide run at multiplexes.
The movie that made Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet icons currently stands as the 8th largest stateside earner in history. At the time of its release, it vaulted to first place. With $659 million overall (and that includes some previous re-releases), it could jump a spot over Avengers: Infinity War ($678 million). Worldwide it is #3 ($2.2 billion) with Water ($2.1 billion) hot on its heels. And, yes, Cameron does now have three of the four all-time global grossers with Avatar ($2.8 billion) atop that chart.
Speaking of the original Avatar, it was put back in theaters last September a few months before the sequel was unleashed. It made $10.5 million in its first frame of re-issuance. I could see Titanic matching or maybe slightly exceeding that figure.
Titanic 25th Anniversary opening weekend prediction: $11.6 million
For my Magic Mike’s Last Dance prediction, click here:
**Blogger’s Update (02/01): I am adding a title to the top 5 that I previously didn’t have on Monday when I did my initial projections. The Chosen: Season 3 Finale is playing on over 2000 screens. As you may recall, the season premiere grossed nearly $9 million in December out of the gate. I’ll say the finale generates a little more than that and could challenge Avatar for the 3 spot. Changes are reflected below.
The seven-week reign of Avatar: The Way of Water at #1 should end in its 8th outing as February dawns at the box office. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest thriller Knock at the Cabin and the octogenarian comedy 80 for Brady debut and look to place 1-2. My detailed prediction posts on them can be found here:
Beginning with 2017’s Split, Shyamalan experienced a career resurgence that could carry Cabin (generating solid word-of-mouth) to a low to mid 20s start. Getting close to $30 million is not out of the question. That number should be enough to top the charts.
80 for Brady looks to appeal to a female audience and older viewers. A Man Called Otto recently showed the demographic is ready for a return at multiplexes. With a robust marketing campaign and the involvement of Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno, I could absolutely see it over performing. My current mid teens forecast is worth keeping an eye on before Thursday (meaning it could rise).
As mentioned, Avatar: The Way of Water (while remaining above $10M) should finally relinquish its stranglehold in first.Fellow holdovers Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and A Man Called Otto should round out the top five and here’s how I see it looking:
1. Knock at the Cabin
Predicted Gross: $23.6 million
2. 80 for Brady
Predicted Gross: $15.5 million
3. Avatar: The Way of Water
Predicted Gross: $11.8 million
4. The Chosen: Season 3 Finale
Predicted Gross: $11 million
5. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Predicted Gross: $8.9 million
6. A Man Called Otto
Predicted Gross: $4.8 million
Box Office Results(January 27-29)
Avatar: The Way of Water cruised to a seventh frame atop the charts with $15.9 million (ahead of my $14.3 million take). The domestic haul is $620 million, but the story of the weekend is that it surpassed Star Wars: The Force Awakens to become the fourth largest worldwide grosser in history. That means James Cameron now has three of the top four (with Avatar and Titanic also in the mix).
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was runner-up with $10.4 million, surpassing my $9.2 million prediction. In six weeks, the animated sequel has amassed $140 million.
The surprise of the weekend was Pathaan, a Hindu language action spectacle that I incorrectly had outside the top five. It was third with $6.8 million and $9.4 million since its Wednesday bow. The PTA of nearly $10k was easily the highest on the charts.
A Man Called Otto was fourth with $6.6 million (in line with my $6 million projection) for $45 million overall.
M3GAN rounded out the top five with $6.2 million (I said $5.8 million) as the campy horror tale is approaching nine figures at $82 million.
Finally, Missing was sixth in its sophomore weekend with $5.6 million, a tad above my $5.1 million call. The ten-day total is $17 million (doubling its reported $7 million budget).
My Case Of posts where I serve as the defense for and prosecution against the Best Picture, Director, and four acting competition hopefuls arrives at our second contender in the biggest race of all. That’s Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron’s long-in-development sequel to 2009’s 3D game changer.
The Case for Avatar: The Way of Water:
If the Academy wants to honor the highest grossing worldwide pic of the bunch, this is your movie. Cameron’s follow-up just surpassed $2 billion at the global box office and has ruled the domestic box office for seven weeks running.
The Case Against Avatar: The Way of Water:
If the Academy wants to honor the highest grossing domestic pic of the bunch, Top Gun: Maverick is their movie. It’s the sequel that had the best nominations haul on Oscar noms morning. Water‘s four overall mentions are less than half of the nine achieved by the original 13 years ago. It won three – Art Direction (now Production Design), Cinematography, and Visual Effects. This one seems destined for a sole victory. Cameron couldn’t make the final five for his direction (he did get a Globes nod) and editing is another significant omission.
Production Design, Sound, Visual Effects
That likely win is in Visual Effects. With the aforementioned whiffs in direction and editing and the less than impressive haul (compared to part 1), Water was pretty fortunate to make the cut at all.
My Case Of posts will continue with The Banshees of Inisherin!
If you missed my posts covering the other BP contenders, click here:
The first full weekend of the new year sees deranged doll M3GAN dancing into multiplexes as she hopes to have a strong #2 showing behind Avatar: The Way of Water. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on 2023’s initial wide release right here:
I believe M3GAN will perform similarly to last fall’s Smile and a low to mid 20s premiere would cause Universal and Blumhouse to do just that. The trailers have generated lots of attention and the overall marketing campaign (like Smile) has been impressive. There’s a chance it could over perform my estimate, but I don’t see it threatening Avatar.
That’s because the James Cameron sequel achieved the third largest third domestic weekend of all time behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the first Avatar. A fourth frame drop in the mid to higher 40s range should net it a mid 30s showing. Like M3GAN, I wouldn’t be shocked it goes higher.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish should easily be third after an encouraging sophomore outing with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody rounding out the top five.
Here’s how I think it’ll look:
1. Avatar: The Way of Water
Predicted Gross: $38.3 million
Predicted Gross: $24.8 million
3. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Predicted Gross: $10.2 million
4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Predicted Gross: $3.4 million
5. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody
Predicted Gross: $2.1 million
Box Office Results (December 30-January 1)
2022 closed out and 2023 kicked off with Avatar: The Way of Water dominating the charts with $67.4 million. That’s right in line with my $65.8 million forecast. This third weekend was an important one for the long-in-development follow-up as it’s amassed $425 million stateside coupled with its gigantic worldwide earnings ($1.4 billion).
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish rose 35% from its debut at $16.8 million – in range with my $16.1 million prediction. The DreamWorks animated sequel hit $61 million as nine figures looks doable.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ascended to third with $5.1 million, a touch above my $4.5 million take. Overall haul is $438 million.
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody felt the heat of a disappointing second frame in fourth. Dropping 16% with $3.9 million, I wrongly thought it might go up at $5.6 million. The meager ten-day tally is $14 million.
Babylon, after a disastrous start, continued the free fall with $2.6 million in fifth (I said $3.2 million). It’s made $10 million with a reported $80 million price tag.
Violent Night was sixth with $2.1 million. I was more optimistic at $3.1 million. The R rated holiday tale has scored a solid $40 million.
After a domestic debut that unquestionably fell on the lower end of expectations, Avatar: The Way of Water hopes for a strong sophomore outing and smoother sailing throughout the season. It will remain in first while three newcomers should populate the 2-4 slots.
They are DreamWorks Animation’s sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, musical biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and Damien Chazelle’s once upon a time in Hollywood dramedy Babylon with Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt. My detailed prediction posts on the trio can be accessed here:
The box office range of Yuletide releases can be tied to how the dates work out on the calendar. Christmas Eve is Saturday and it can be limited as potential moviegoers are preparing the big day. On the other hand, Christmas itself can be potent. Bottom line: it’s important to remember that weekdays at this time of year can be just as booming as weekends as people are taking time off.
Boots gets a jump on Wednesday while Babylon and Somebody drop Friday. Sporting impressive reviews, Puss is poised to be the runner-up to Water. The three-day might fall in the high teens to low 20s range with close to $30 million for the five-day.
Third place is going to one of the other openers. I’m forecasting that a solid African-American and female turnout could give the Whitney flick the edge. I expect Somebody to double digits while Babylon falls just under. The five spot should be close between holdovers Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Violent Night.
Now we return to Avatar. There’s more chatter below on the lesser than anticipated start. Yet it’s also fair to say that future weekends will ultimately determine whether it’s a success or not. The A Cinemascore grade (same as part 1) should help. I’ll say a mid to high 40s decline happens over Christmas while the leveling off might be far less pronounced in the 3rd frame and beyond.
Here’s how I’m seeing the top 6 playing out:
1 . Avatar: The Way of Water
Predicted Gross: $73.4 million
2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Predicted Gross: $18.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $28.5 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
3. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody
Predicted Gross: $11.5 million
Predicted Gross: $8.7 million
5. Violent Night
Predicted Gross: $3.3 million
6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Predicted Gross: $3.2 million
Box Office Results (December 16-18)
The general consensus was that Avatar: The Way of Water, the long awaited sequel to James Cameron’s largest worldwide earner in history, would amass a stateside start of around $175 million. I projected $173.1 million. That didn’t happen. Water made $134.1 million and that’s the fifth highest debut of 2022 (a hair ahead of The Batman). As mentioned, success will not be judged here it if manages to develop sturdy legs in the next several weeks (as the filmmaker’s predecessors Titanic and Avatar certainly did). For now the jury is out while the expected mark wasn’t achieved domestically out of the gate. On a global basis – it brought in another $300 million. The $435 million tally is second only to May’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Unsurprisingly nothing else wanted to open opposite Avatar as the rest of the chart was stuffed with holdovers. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, after five weeks on top, was second with $5.3 million. On pace with my $5.5 million call, the six-week total is $418 million.
Violent Night was right behind in third with $5 million, on target with my $4.9 million projection. The three-week gross is $35 million.
Disney dud Strange World was fourth with $2.2 million, a smidge below my $2.6 million take for a dull $33 million overall.
The Menu completed the top five at $1.6 million (I said $1.9 million) for $32 million it its coffers.
My Year Of posts focusing on a half dozen performers who had us feeling ’22 continues with our second icon who turned the big 6-0 this year. The first was Tom Cruise and if you missed that post, you can find it here:
The next sexagenarian is Michelle Yeoh. For the past three decades, U.S. audiences have seen the Malaysian legend fighting alongside Jackie Chan in the Supercop pics, James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies, and Chow Yun-fat in Ang Lee’s acclaimed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In recent years, she probably came close to a Supporting Actress nomination as the overbearing mother in Crazy Rich Asians. Last year, she joined the MCU in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
There were plenty of projects in 2022. She lent her voice to Minions: The Rise of Gru and Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank. A small role popped up in Netflix’s YA fantasy The School for Good and Evil. None of those projects are why Yeoh made this cut.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is. The sophomore effort of the Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) is the multi-genre rumination on life that casts Yeoh as frazzled laundromat owner Evelyn. She also (due to a seemingly infinite multiverse) plays the role in many other iterations including a movie star, a woman with hot dogs for fingers, and a rock. It’s a one-of-a-kind picture with the role of a lifetime for its lead.
An Oscar nomination is a near certainty and a win is quite possible. The box office was impressive with $70 million domestically against a considerably smaller budget. Costars Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, and Jamie Lee Curtis could all be headed for their own awards nods. I currently have Everything listed in 1st to take Best Picture.
A busy 2023 and beyond awaits Yeoh. More voice work is on deck with Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and Kenneth Branagh has put her in the ensemble of his third Poirot mystery A Haunting in Venice. Her Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu will be collaborating with her again on the two planned Wicked films (slated for 2024 and 2025). James Cameron has her showing up (apparently in human form) in the third and fourth Avatar pics.
Yeoh’s part in Everything was originally considered for her old costar Jackie Chan. That’s hard to picture now given her fantastic portrayal. She easily earns a spot in this series. My Year Of posts will continue with an actor who might’ve lost a friend in his Oscar contender, but gained plenty of praise for his body work throughout the year.
Avatar: The Way of Water is both visually sparkling and narratively flat. In that sense, James Cameron’s sequel is much like the 2009 original (which happens to be worldwide highest grosser in history). The effects thirteen years ago were revolutionary and kicked off a mostly unfortunate trend of tentpoles getting the three-dimensional treatment. That sense of wonder from Avatar is present occasionally below the surface in a few astounding underwater sequences. Many blockbusters have competed with this franchise in visual splendor and come up short and that includes some shoddy MCU battles. Cameron and his crew can still wow, but subpar writing and a lack of tight editing remains a problem. If you loved the forests of Pandora in part 1 and didn’t want to leave, you’ll likely love lounging in the aquatic action of this follow-up. If your feelings were mixed like mine were, expect a similar reaction.
Former Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Na’vi spiritual leader in waiting Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) are married with four kids as Water begins (it’s set a decade and a half plus post Avatar). Adopted teenage daughter Kiri (voiced by Sigourney Weaver) is miraculously spawned from Sigourney’s scientist in the original. We suspect she might have special powers if she can get over her Jan Brady lot in life. Older brother Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) is the responsible one while second born boy Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) is the rebel. Youngest girl Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) is eight and precocious. The Sully tribe are living a peaceful existence until those mean corporate Earthlings return to Pandora. On their list of plays is total colonization as the home planet is dying.
Due to a memory implant system, Stephen Lang’s villainous Colonel is leading the charge in the guise of a Na’vi big blue boy. He has revenge on his mind since it was Neytiri who arrowed him to death years ago. There’s also a son he left behind that the Sully’s are raising who goes by Spider (Jack Champion). Clad in a loincloth, his character comes off as a cartoonish plot device. He’s got about as much depth as Bam Bam Rubble. The dynamic between Spider and his father is one of a few daddy issues happening. I half expected a sky complected Maury Povich to interrupt and start moderating.
Since Jake is being targeted for his skill in fighting off the Sky People, he relocates his brood to the tropical island of At’wa Attu. They feel out of place among the residents who spend much of their day submerged. The chief of their clan known as the Metkayina is Tonwari (Cliff Curtis). He and his pregnant wife Ronal (Kate Winslet) are skeptical about harboring their guests. It’s in and around the island where some memorable moments happen. The Metkayina share a spiritual connection with the giant mammals swimming below. Lo’ak befriends one of them and it’s a subplot that clicks.
Part 2 relegates Jake and Neytiri to the sidelines for much of its three hours and 12 minutes. A larger focus is on their offspring and how they feel like fish out of water. The filmmaker’s own well-documented fascination with the deep comes in handy with the whale tale portions and beyond. The bulk of its themes, on the other hand, are heavily borrowed from before. Cameron and his tech wizards can enthrall us and exasperate us in this new habitat that questions our humanity.
Avatar: The Way of Water surfaces on your 3D and IMAX screens this Friday. It is, of course, James Cameron’s follow-up to 2009’s original which still stands as the biggest worldwide grosser of all time (and third overall domestically). The social media embargo lifted last week and the common refrain was “don’t bet against James Cameron”. I held off on my Oscar speculation until the official review embargo lapsed. That happened today.
Currently at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes (part 1 ended up at 82%), many critics are claiming this is an improvement over the first. Some of the same gripes remain including that it is overlong (3 hours and 12 minutes) and underdeveloped in its screenplay. Praise for its technical work is more universal.
In 2009, Avatar made an Oscar splash with nine nominations: Picture, Director, Art Direction (now Production Design), Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing (the Sound races are now combined), and Visual Effects. It won 3 – Art Direction, Cinematography, and Visual Effects.
Water has a chance of receiving the same number of nods. On Monday, the Golden Globes put it in their five for Picture (Drama) and Director. I already believe the Academy will make room for this in BP. It should be the second massive international blockbuster (alongside Top Gun: Maverick) in the mix. Cameron showing up in the directing quintet is not as automatic.
Let’s dispense with the easiest items. This is going to win Visual Effects just like its predecessor. That’s one of the slam dunk categories you can cross off already. Production Design and Cinematography and Sound are all probable inclusions. I’m less certain about the score and editing. Then there’s the Weeknd, who contributed the song “Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)”. I’m not so sure about its strength in that competition. He needs to overcome other superstars such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish and that could be a tall order.
You’ll notice I haven’t discussed the performances or the screenplay. While there’s kudos for returnees like Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver (in a different role than in 2009), don’t expect the acting to capture the attention of voters. Given that the writing is the most faulted aspect, don’t hold your breath expecting Cameron and cowriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver to contend.
Bottom line: Avatar: The Way of Water looks to be Cameron’s third movie in a row (after Titanic and Avatar) to be in the BP race. Look for its nomination total to be at least 4-5 and maybe more. In other words, to borrow a phrase from most of Twitter last week, don’t bet against James Cameron. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Theaters owners are counting on Avatar: The Way of Water to save them from drowning in red ink following the second lowest box office frame of 2022. James Cameron’s long in the making sequel is the only new release out and you can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:
With Oscar buzz (like the 2009 original) and solid reviews, Water could potentially surface with the largest premiere of the year. To do so, it would need to surpass the $187 million that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness achieved in May. Considering the runtime of over three hours, it may fall a bit short of that. My projection has it behind Multiverse and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever for the third heftiest ’22 haul and the 18th highest debut of all time.
Speaking of Wakanda, it will finally fall to second after five weeks atop the charts. Fellow holdovers Violent Night, Strange World, and The Menu should all slide a spot as well. All of these returnees experienced small declines this weekend, but may dip a tad more due to Avatar overtaking multiplexes.
Here’s how I see the top 5 shaking out:
1. Avatar: The Way of Water
Predicted Gross: $173.1 million
2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Predicted Gross: $5.5 million
3. Violent Night
Predicted Gross: $4.9 million
4. Strange World
Predicted Gross: $2.6 million
5. The Menu
Predicted Gross: $1.9 million
Box Office Results (December 9-11)
As mentioned, it was a sluggish time in theaters as Avatar is on deck to make a splash. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever made it a handful of weekends in first place with $11.2 million. That’s on pace with my $10.6 million prediction as the MCU sequel is up to $409 million.
Violent Night remained in second with a sturdy 35% drop at $8.7 million, in line with my $8.5 million take. The Yuletide shoot-em-up has grossed $26 million in ten days.
Disney’s flop Strange World was third with $3.7 million compared to my $3.1 million estimate. Overall tally is just $30 million.
The Menu was fourth with $2.7 million (I said $2.8 million) for $29 million total.
Devotion rounded out the top five with $2 million. I went with $1.7 million and the aviation drama is at $17 million.
Finally, there was a bit of good news in a bad weekend. A24’s The Whale, in which Brendan Fraser is expected to vie for the Best Actor Oscar, achieved 2022’s best per screen performance. In only six venues, it earned approximately $360k. That $60k average tops Everything Everywhere All at Once, which previously had the year’s strongest average at $50k. It expands across wider on December 21st.
Hollywood looks to be awoken from its box office slumber when Avatar: The Way of Water surfaces on December 16th. After plenty of delays in the release date, James Cameron’s sequel to his 2009 record breaking phenomenon comes with a reported budget in the neighborhood of $400 million. Clocking in at 3 hours and 12 minutes, the 3D sci-fi epic is the only newcomer on the pre-Christmas weekend and it should dominate the marketplace. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi, Dileep Rao, and Matt Gerald reprise their roles from part 1. Joining the Pandora universe for the first time are Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Jermaine Clement, and Brandon Cowell. Sigourney Weaver appears in a different part from 13 years ago.
It’s dangerous to underestimate Cameron. This is only his third feature in a quarter century. 1997’s Titanic withstood shaky buzz during its filming and became the highest grossing film of all time. That record stood for 12 years until it was broken by (you guessed it) Avatar, which also had troubling word-of-mouth until it didn’t. With $785 million domestically (which includes a September re-release which did impressive business), Avatar still ranks fourth all-time stateside behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. The international tally is $2.1 billion and that ranks as #1.
There are legitimate questions as to the sequel’s potency. 13 years is a long time between entries. Are younger viewers excited for a trip back to the planet with all the blue people? Disney and 20th Century Studios need this to make a splash as a third Avatar arrives in two years with fourth and fifth (and possibly more) editions planned.
One number is easy to know. The Way of Water will have no problem dwarfing the $77 million that Avatar made for its debut before it became the must-see picture for months. It was #1 for 7 weeks. The sequel is expected to take in double that figure with $160 million generally being considered the floor. The ceiling could be $200 million (and perhaps higher) though its length could hinder that possibility. There’s also some older moviegoers who may not feel the need to rush out opening weekend to view it.
I believe $175-185 million is likely for the Sully family as they land in theaters once again. My projection gives it the 14th biggest domestic premiere of all time between Iron Man 3 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. That’s also the 3rd largest opening haul of 2022 behind Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Black Panther: WakandaForever.
Avatar: The Way of Water opening weekend prediction: $173.1 million