‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ To Lead In 4th Weekend As It Swims Its Way Up The All Time Box Office Charts; M3GAN Provides Creepy Counterprogramming
Avatar: The Way of Water has had an incredible run from its December 16 release up through the early days of the new year. The remaining question is how it will play now that the holiday season has come to an end. The box office juggernaut has made a massive splash with $457 million domestically through Tuesday, and at $1.482 billion worldwide it is not only on the verge of topping Top Gun: Maverick ($1.489 billion) to become 2022’s highest grossing film but is also on its way into the top ten all time global box office list (10th place is currently occupied by Furious 7 with $1.515 billion). James Cameron’s sequel to what remains the highest grossing film of all time has already silenced any doubts that were in the air about the franchise’s relevance, and now we’ll see how far it can swim.

The first Avatar took a 27% tumble in its fourth weekend (January 8-10, 2010), which was the only drop over 20% in its first seven weekends. That remains the highest grossing fourth weekend of all time with $50.3 million. The original and the follow-up saw nearly identical third weekend grosses, though Avatar 2 (which grossed $67.4 million) would have topped the first Avatar ($68.5 million) were it not for New Year’s Eve falling over the weekend this year. Even with that in mind, it seems doubtful that Avatar 2 could hold that well, especially considering it has minted a larger cume than the first film had at the same point in its release (Avatar had grossed $368 million through its 19th day). Even if Avatar: TWOW ends up with a similar finish as the first film, a leveling out is to be expected.

Franchise films tend to fall big after the holiday season (the films in the recent Star Wars trilogy and Rogue One, all of which opened in the same mid-December, pre-Christmas weekend as the Avatar films, fell over 50% in their first post-New Year weekends), but last year Spider-Man: No Way Home held better, falling 42% in its fourth weekend to gross $32.6 million. The Way of Water outgrossed No Way Home in its third weekend ($67.4 million compared to $56 million) and is seeing bigger weekdays this week (Avatar: TWOW did $21.4 million Monday and $10.5 million Tuesday compared to No Way Home’s $7.9 million and $5.9 million one year ago, though it makes a difference that those days were Jan 2-3 this year compared to Jan 3-4 last year), giving TWOW the upper hand this weekend in gross terms. If TWOW has an equivalent hold, that would be $39.2 this weekend. Whether it can catch up to No Way Home’s $805 million is another story, given that at this point in its release the Spidey film had grossed $627 million. Still, if TWOW plays like No Way Home from here on out, that’s another $177 million, enough to put it in the all time domestic top ten list. It could certainly go much further, but we’ll get a better sense of its chances by the end of the weekend.

Though it’s Avatar’s show once again this weekend, there are some new releases. Most notable among them is M3GAN, a sci-fi horror film produced by Jason Blum and James Wan. The film, which opens in 3,400 locations, is about a roboticist (Allison Williams) who develops an AI powered doll and decides to put it to real world use after she gains custody of her orphaned niece. As you can expect, things don’t go quite as planned in this twist on the creepy doll subgenre. The market is ripe for a new horror film, and this should be the best non-franchise opening at least since Ticket to Paradise ($16.5 million) in October, and likely the best since Smile ($22.6 million) in September. Time will tell if it has legs, but some solid counter-programming is very welcome given the weak slate outside of Avatar (the only other film to possibly gross over $10 million this weekend is Puss in Boots: The Last Wish). Given the $12 million budget, the economics here are strong, and the 98% on Rotten Tomatoes as of now is a nice plus.

Also going wide is United Artists Releasing’s Women Talking which opened in eight locations on December 23rd and has grossed $175k to date. The Sarah Polley-written and directed Oscar contender is about a group of Mennonite women who grapple with the discovery of widespread sexual assault in their community. That cast includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand.