After a 13-year long wait since James Cameron‘s Avatar became a global sensation, racking up $2.7 billion worldwide, 20th Century Studios (a division of Walt Disney Pictures) released the long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, on Thursday afternoon with previews that began at 3pm.
After making $17 million in previews, The Way of Water took in an estimated $53 million on Friday (which includes those preview numbers).
That’s slightly more than the $52 million opening day of Tom Cruise‘s Top Gun: Maverick, currently the highest grossing blockbuster of 2022 with over $700 million, but substantially less than the opening days for this year’s Marvel movies: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($90.7 million opening day), Thor: Love and Thunder ($69.4 million), and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($84.25 million).
It’s also less than Jurassic World: Dominion‘s opening day of $59.6 million, that sequel going on to an opening weekend of $145.1 million, but more than Minions: The Rise of Gru, which made $48.2 million its opening day and $123 million in its 4-day 4th of July opening weekend. The only other significant $100 million plus opener of 2022 was Warner Bros‘ The Batman, which did $56.6 million its opening day and $134 million its opening weekend.
Reviews are generally positive for The Way of Water at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the Audience Score is better, at 94%, and it received an “A” CinemaScore, which makes one think Cameron’s latest will have decent legs ala Avatar and Titanic.
We can probably deduce that the Avatar sequel will hold up well over the weekend to bring in somewhere between $125 and 135 million, so in the same opening weekend range of The Batman or Thor: Love and Thunder. That’s not bad, but not quite the “theatrical savior” some may have been expecting… at least not yet.
Check back on Sunday evening for the complete weekend box office wrap-up, as well as a preview of the Christmas weekend box office that will see three new wide releases, a number of expanding movies, and a few last-minute limited releases qualifying for the Oscars.