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Box Office Breakdown: Avatar: The Way of Water Wins New Year’s Weekend, Becomes 2nd Biggest Movie of 2022 With $440 Million

One of the interesting aspects of the New Year’s Eve/Day weekend box office is not the new movies being released (of which there were very few) but how the movies that opened over the previous pre-Christmas weekend fared in their second weekends. Often, it’s an interesting display of how a movie’s word of mouth is sustaining legs, or in the worst case, when a movie is taking badly, regardless of the influx of holiday audiences. We had a mix of both of those circumstances this past weekend.

This Past Weekend 

It certainly looks like James Cameron is effectively saving the box office, because for a third weekend in a row, his fantasy sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, was #1, this time with even more money than it made over Christmas weekend. Walt Disney Pictures reports an estimated $66.8 million for the movie’s three-day weekend, which is up 5 percent from last weekend, and then it made another $19.5 million on Monday, which was considered a holiday with many schools and government offices still closed. With that astounding third weekend, Avatar crossed the $440 million domestically, which also makes it the 24th-highest grossing movie of all time, domestically. It still has a long way to go before it reaches the original Avatar‘s $785.2 million, but it’s not unfathomable, since that had only grossed $334.7 million by Jan. 2.

Internationally, Avatar has grossed $1.38 billion worldwide with another $186.7 million this past weekend from 52 overseas markets. It still has a ways to go to reach the original Avatar‘s $2.7 billion global gross. 

DreamWorks Animation’s animated sequel, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, may have started out slow, but it picked up steam in its second weekend, making $16.8 million over the three-day weekend (up 35%!) and $22.6 million including Monday. So far, it has grossed $67 million, which might seem like a disappointment compared to other animated holiday releases, but it’s going to a month with no other family fare.

A movie that picked up a surprising amount of business this weekend was Marvel StudiosBlack Panther: Wakanda Forever, which bounced back up to third place with $4.8 million over the weekend with $1.7 million on Monday. So far, it has grossed $439.6 million domestically, putting it right behind Avatar for 2022.

Babylon movie
Brad Pitt in Babylon/Paramount Pictures

Two of the movies that didn’t fare nearly as well over Christmas, didn’t do much better this past weekend, as Sony’s Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody took fourth place with $4 million, down 16% from its opening weekend with just $15.5 million made through Monday. Damien Chazelle’s Babylon also failed to recover from its weak opening, taking fifth place with $2.6 million and $3.4 million with Monday, bringing its total to a terrible $10.8 million. 

Universal’s holiday action-comedy Violent Night took sixth place with expectations that it would lose business once Christmas was in the rearview mirror. It dropped 40% to $2.1 million for the three-day weekend with $48 million grossed through Monday.

Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, remained in seventh place with $1.3 million with $5.8 million grossed domestically through Sunday. We’ll have to see if A24 decides to expand it further or waits until inevitable awards love for its star, Brendan Fraser.

That was followed in eighth place by The Menu with $1.5 million over the four-day weekend, and Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans with $1.3 million over the same period. Although The Fabelmans has been on demand for a number of weeks, Universal has managed to keep it in theaters despite a fairly week $12.4 million after seven weeks in theaters.

Sony also released A Man Called Otto, a remake of the Swedish film A Man Called Ove, starring Tom Hanks, into four New York and L.A. theaters on Friday, where it made $75,000 over the four-day weekend or $18,750 per theater, which is not a great basis for a movie Sony plans to expand nationwide on Jan. 13.

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda’s Broker grossed $35,000 over the 4-day weekend in four New York and L.A. theaters, with $60,000 grossed since opening earlier last week. (Incidentally, you should check out Andrew Korpan’s personal story about how that movie helped him deal with being given up for adoption as a baby.)

Weekend Box Office


Rank Entry Distributor Revenue Theater Count Total Revenue
1 Avatar: The Way of Water 20th Century Studios $67,409,155 4,202 $425,527,069
2 Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Universal $16,815,340 4,121 $61,222,670
3 Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Walt Disney $5,145,714 2,310 $438,291,367
4 Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody Sony Pictures $3,931,319 3,625 $14,527,948
5 Babylon Paramount Pictures $2,611,224 3,351 $10,020,726
6 Violent Night Universal $2,114,465 2,563 $47,504,760
7 The Whale A24 $1,372,242 623 $5,819,439
8 The Menu Searchlight Pictures $1,100,047 860 $36,158,946
9 The Fabelmans Universal $1,037,140 1,149 $12,112,360
10 Strange World Walt Disney $501,471 1,240 $36,992,761

Last Year 

Spider-Man: No Way Home
Zendaya (L) and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: No Way Home / Sony Pictures

It was little to no surprise that Spider-Man: No Way Home retained the top spot last year with a minimal 34% drop to $56 million, having accumulated $613.6 million in three weekend domestically. There was little sign of the Omicron pandemic and nationwide COVID surges hurting moviegoers’ enthusiasm for going to theaters, although No Way Home would remain for three of the next four weekends. 

DreamWorks Animation’s sequel, Sing 2, remained in second place with $20.2, down just 10%, as it hit $90.2 million total in North America. 

The King’s Man and American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story each moved up a slot to third and fourth place, respectively, with $4.6 million and $3.9 million.

The Matrix Resurrections, which was already streaming on HBO Max, had the biggest drop from the Christmas weekend, dropping 64% to fifth place with $3.8 million and $30.9 million total.


A scene from M3GAN / Universal

With Avatar dominating the box office these past few weeks, it’s hard to imagine something coming along and dethroning it, but that’s the great hope for the high-concept horror film, M3GAN, from Blumhouse and James Wan’s Atomic Monster. Revolving around a high-tech mechanical friend that goes rogue, it’s one of the stronger horror releases since Paramount’s Smile, and it may end up being the only movie of the month to open with more than $20 million. While it may have given Avatar: The Way of Water competition for its potential fourth weekend at #1, Avatar’s showing this past weekend makes it apparent that it won’t be going away quietly, and M3GAN may have to settle for second place with $22 to 25 million.

Sarah Polley’s ensemble drama, Women Talking, based on Miriam Toews’ novel, will expand into more markets this Friday, although U.A. Releasing may not be quite ready to go wide until they see how it fares with SAG and Oscar nominations on Jan. 11 and 24, respectively.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas

Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.netThe Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film JournalThe New York Daily NewsDen of Geek, and other places.

Box Office Breakdown will be posted each week by Monday morning. You can read other features by Edward Douglas over at Below the Line.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.


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