Avatar: The Way Of Water Becomes The Fourth Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time During An Otherwise Mostly Bummer Box Office Weekend

At this time last year, the situation at the box office was pretty disappointing. With January 2022 coming to a close, the biggest hit from the previous December (namely Jon Watt's Spider-Man: No Way Home) was still at the top of the charts, and while a buzzy new horror movie (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's Scream) and a hit animated sequel (Garth Jennings' Sing 2) were making money, pretty much everything else was just hanging on.

Fast forward 52 weeks, and we're looking at almost the exact same situation: the big blockbuster from December (James Cameron's Avatar: The Way Of Water) is still on top, and while features from the realm of horror (Gerard Johnstone's M3GAN) and animated sequels (Joel Crawford's Puss in Boots: The Last Wish) are doing well, there isn't a lot else to be excited about. If not for Marc Forster's A Man Called Otto and Siddharth Anand's Pathaan, it would actually be spooky. Check out the full Top 10 below, and join me after for analysis.

Avatar: The Way of Water Weekend Box Office January 27-29, 2023

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)
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1. Avatar: The Way Of Water$15,700,000 $620,580,771 13,600
2. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish$10,620,000 $140,834,910 23,452
3. A Man Called Otto$6,750,000 $46,052,864 53,957
4. M3GAN$6,370,000 $82,273,725 33,416
5. Pathaan*$5,947,369 $8,548,444 N/A695
6. Missing$5,675,000 $17,569,417 43,025
7. Plane$3,825,000 $25,374,765 62,852
8. The Wandering Earth 2$3,000,000 $3,000,000 N/A142
9. Infinity Pool*$2,725,000 $2,725,000 N/A1,835
10. Left Behind: Rise Of The Antichrist*$2,362,074 $2,972,648 N/A1,405

Surpassing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avatar: The Way Of Water Is Now The Fourth Biggest Film Of All Time Worldwide

One leg up that Avatar: The Way Of Water has on the aforementioned Spider-Man: No Way Home is the length of its reign. While the Marvel movie from Sony won the weekend box office for six out of its first seven weeks (having been bumped by Scream in its debut), James Cameron's return to Pandora has been the hottest thing in theaters for all seven of its Friday-to-Sundays thus far. That has resulted in a domestic sum that presently stands at $620.6 million – but that's literally less than half of the picture.

Outside of the United States and Canada, Avatar: The Way Of Water has more than doubled that total in ticket sales, having thus far made $1.5 billion. All together the blockbuster has earned $2.1 billion worldwide, and, as has been officially announced by the Walt Disney Company in a press release, the movie is now considered the fourth biggest hit of all time (not specifically accounting for inflation or premium tickets such as IMAX and 3D).

At present, according to The Numbers, Avatar 2 has now made about $52 million more globally than what J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens did during its theatrical run in 2015/2016. In order to becoming the third highest-grossing film of all time, it will need to add another $91.4 million to its present total, as that will allow the sci-fi feature to surpass the amount of money that James Cameron's Titanic brought in during the late 1990s and during its multiple re-releases. 

Still with a strong hold on the top two spots on the chart are Cameron's Avatar ($2.9 billion) and Joe and Anthony Russo's Avengers: Endgame ($2.8 billion).

Spider in Avatar: The Way of Water

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

On the all-time domestic charts, Avatar: The Way of Water is getting closer and closer to entering the Top 10. It's about $3 million from passing Joss Whedon's The Avengers, and in ninth place is Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World, which memorably made $652.3 million during its time playing on the big screen.

Just how far it will climb will all depend on how well the film fares in February against what can definitely be called more intense competition than what January had to offer. Depending on how things play out, Avatar 2 may lose its box office crown in its eighth week facing off against M. Night Shyamalan's Knock At The Cabin – but even if that doesn't happen, there is a zero percent chance that the movie gets to nine weeks straight at the top. Peyton Reed's Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania is arriving in the middle of next month, and there is no way that it will end Marvel Studio's streak of #1 hits (which has been running since the release of Jon Favreau's Iron Man in the summer of 2008).

Brandon Cronenberg's Infinity Pool Has A Tough Opening Weekend That Lands It In Ninth Place

They say a rising tide lifts all boats... but the movie world isn't actually an ocean. When a particular genre or subgenre is doing well, it can certainly raise hopes for upcoming projects of that ilk, but there are never any guarantees when it comes to trends and box office. 

This is why the performance of Brandon Cronenberg's Infinity Pool can be called disappointing.

As has been noted at infinitum over the last few months, horror is having a big moment right now, as fans are not only seeing the release of a lot of quality content, but the titles are tending to perform well on the big screen. Thanks to this heat, Neon clearly had high hopes for Infinity Pool – giving it a wide release in 1,835 locations – but the bet didn't really pay off. Despite earning positive buzz about its extremeness following its premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, the movie only made $2.7 million in the last three days.

That's a disappointing start for what is a smart and entertaining film (read more about it in my Infinity Pool CinemaBlend review), and hopefully it will end up getting a  boost from word of mouth in the coming weeks. We've seen hype boost a lot of scary features as of late – the titles that immediately come to mind include Damien Leone's Terrifier 2, Zach Cregger's Barbarian and Parker Finn's Smile – so we'll have to wait and see what becomes of it in the weeks to come.

Pathaan Is This Week's Big Box Office Surprise

To end this week's box office report on a high note, we'll call special attention to the impressive performance by Pathaan. The Hindi-language thriller was released in fewer than 700 theaters across the country this past Friday by Yash Raj Films, and it managed to make it into the Top 5 on the chart. It's one of two foreign language films to place in the Top 10 this week, with the other being Frant Gwo's The Wandering Earth 2.

Bringing in $5.9 million during its first three days, Pathaan made an impressive $8,557 per location, which was second only to The Wandering Earth – which made $3 million playing on 142 screens – equating to a $21,127 average.

February should be a very interesting month for big screen movies, and we're excited to see how the landscape changes with the arrival of both Knock At The Cabin and Kyle Marvin's football-centric comedy 80 For Brady in wide release this Friday. Come back here to CinemaBlend next Sunday to find out how the Top 10 gets shuffled, and check out our 2023 Movie Release Calendar to learn about all of the films set for release in the weeks and months to come.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.