Avatar sequel sails to second week at top of box office in North America

James Cameron's digital extravaganza has made 253.7 million dollars domestically in its first 10 days of release.

Avatar: The Way Of Water sailed to the top of the box office in its second weekend, bringing in a strong 56 million US dollars (£46.3 million) in North America that suggests it may stay afloat into the new year and approach the massive expectations that met its release.

James Cameron’s digital extravaganza for 20th Century Studios has made 253.7 million dollars (£210 million) domestically in its first 10 days of release, compared with 212.7 million dollars (£176 million) in the same stretch for 2009’s first Avatar, which would go on to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

While Cameron’s films such as the Avatar original and Titanic tend to have serious legs at the box office, sequels tend to open big and decline quickly, complicating guesses on where the film will end up.

Its second-weekend drop-off from the 134 million dollars it made in its first was not precipitous, given the way blockbusters open.

Kate Winslet, as Ronal, left, and Cliff Curtis, as Tonowari, in a scene from Avatar: The Way Of Water
Kate Winslet, as Ronal, left, and Cliff Curtis, as Tonowari, in a scene from Avatar: The Way Of Water (20th Century Studios via AP)

“This is James Cameron’s first 100 million dollar opener,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore.

“For this movie to have opened that big and only dropped 58%, it shows it has staying power.”

Globally, The Way Of Water is already the third highest-grossing film released in 2022, bringing in 855 million dollars (£707.8 million) – putting it behind only Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion – and is a lock to surpass one billion dollars (£827.8 million).

It is also clear sailing for the film looking ahead, with more holiday time coming and no comparable competition until February, when Marvel’s Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is released.

Storms across the US could keep people home, however.

“The biggest foe that Avatar is facing at this moment is the weather,” Mr Dergarabedian said.

Universal’s animated Shrek spin-off, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, featuring the voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, finished a distant second with 11.35 million dollars (£9.4 million) in its opening weekend.

Sony’s biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody finished third with 5.3 million dollars (£4.4 million).

Brad Pitt, left, and Diego Calva in Babylon
Brad Pitt, left, and Diego Calva in Babylon (Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures via AP)

The weekend’s biggest disappointment was Babylon, the epic of early Hollywood from La La Land director Damien Chazelle starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie.

In a nationwide release it brought in just 3.5 million dollars (£2.9 million), finishing fourth.

The tepid, 6.5 million dollar (£5.4 million) opening weekend in October of director David O Russell’s Amsterdam, another film set in a similar period that combined prestige, scope, star power and a celebrated auteur, brought industry worries that audiences were just not flocking to cinemas for such films.

The concerns proved justified, as Babylon barely made more than half of the opening of Amsterdam.

The coming weeks in cinemas, streaming showings and any nominations it may get could help Babylon rise above bomb status.

“I would say Babylon is a movie that isn’t about the opening weekend,” Mr Dergarabedian said. “We’ll have to see what it does in the coming weeks then into the new year, particularly if it gets more awards buzz.”

– Estimated ticket sales for Friday through to Sunday at US and Canadian cinemas, according to Comscore, with Wednesday through to Sunday in parentheses. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.

1. Avatar: The Way Of Water, 56 million dollars.

2. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, 11.35 million dollars.

3. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody, 5.3 million dollars.

4. Babylon, 3.5 million dollars.

5. Violent Night, 3.14 million dollars.

6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, three million dollars.

7. The Whale, 924,000 dollars.

8. The Menu, 617,000 dollars.

9. The Fabelmans, 550,000 dollars.

10. Strange World, 410,000 dollars.