Avatar: The Way of Water has a lot to live up to — not just in terms of the franchise’s future, which will end if the sequel and its follow-up underperform, but also budget wise. Director James Cameron shared with GQ magazine that the sci-fi epic must become the “third or fourth highest-grossing film in history” just to break-even.
While a hard number wasn’t given, his response to a question on the budget was that it was “very f—king [expensive].” This comes after he told Disney and 20th Century Fox executives that his sequel budget was so high that it has become “the worst business case in movie history”.
The first Avatar, released in 2009, remains the highest-grossing film in history (unadjusted for inflation) with a box office earning of US$2.9 billion globally. It dethroned Cameron’s very own Titanic, which now stands at third place with US$2.2 billion behind Avengers: Endgame (US$2.8 billion), and ahead of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (US$2 billion). According to the director, that means The Way of Water will have to overtake either The Force Awakens or the fifth-ranked Avengers: Infinity War (US$2.05 billion).
It’s going to be an uphill task, especially in light of the downward moviegoing trend brought on by the pandemic. However, blockbusters like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Top Gun: Maverick have shown that it’s still possible to turn huge profits.
Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theatres on 16 December, and will see Sam Worthington reprising his role as Jake Sully along with Zoe Saldaña as Neytiri. Joining the pair are Sigourney Weaver, who returns to the fantastical as their adopted daughter, as well as newcomers Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Michelle Yeoh, and Vin Diesel, and more.