Avatar: The Way Of Water Fails To Put Up Marvel Numbers During Its Opening Weekend At The Box Office

In the run up to the release of Avatar: The Way Of Water, writer/director James Cameron has taken a number of swipes at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, be it his proclaimed hope for pop culture to start experiencing "Avenger fatigue" or criticisms about the depth of the franchise's characters. Considering that Avatar and Marvel are both behemoths in the 21st century box office, there is a logic to the comparison – though after the opening weekend performance of his latest film, the filmmaker may want to pull back the reins a tad on his commentary.

After about 13 years of development, Avatar: The Way Of Water had its debut in theaters this past weekend, and while it put up big numbers, the ticket sales add up to be less than all three of the films that were put out by Marvel Studios in 2022. Check out the Top 10 below, and join me after for analysis!

Avatar: The Way of Water Weekend Box Office December 16-18, 2022

(Image credit: Disney)
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1. Avatar: The Way Of Water*$134,000,000 $134,000,000 Row 0 - Cell 3 4,202
2. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever$5,400,000 $418,991,185 13,380
3. Violent Night$5,000,000 $34,962,085 23,525
4. Strange World$2,200,000 $33,778,060 32,870
5. The Menu$1,700,000 $32,122,499 41,875
6. Devotion$825,000 $18,660,954 52,211
7. The Fabelmans$750,000 $8,665,926 7955
8. Black Adam$500,000 $167,722,380 61,304
9. I Heard The Bells$308,893 $4,993,048 9426
10. Elf$278,500 $178,100,000 Row 9 - Cell 3 270

Early Estimates Show Avatar: The Way Of Water Having The Sixth Biggest Opening Weekend Of 2022 

According to estimates reported by The Numbers, Avatar: The Way Of Water made $134 million domestically in the last three days. With zero competition as far as new releases are concerned, it dominated the market, and it outgrossed its predecessor from 2009 (without accounting for inflation). Out of the starting gate, however, it doesn't quite look like it is going to be the world-record setter that the first Avatar was – though that is obviously an exceptionally high bar to reach.

Should the final numbers hold relatively firm, Avatar: The Way Of Water will go on the record books as having the sixth biggest opening weekend of the year – though it's possible that it could enter the Top 5, as only $8,624 presently separate it from Matt Reeves' The Batman. It will almost certainly end up sitting behind the the four fastest starters of the past 12 months: Sam Raimi's Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness ($187.4 million), Ryan Coogler's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($181.3 million), Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World: Dominion ($145.1 million), and Taika Waititi's Thor: Love And Thunder ($144.2 million).

At this point, the best hope for Avatar: The Way Of Water's box office legacy in the shadow of the original is the long game – which was actually the key behind the outrageous numbers put up by Avatar. (After premiering in mid-December 2009, the blockbuster didn't leave the Top 5 at the weekend box office until mid-March 2010.) Whether or not the sequel will be able to replicate that success is a question mark as of right now, but Joseph Kosinski's Top Gun: Maverick certainly proved earlier this year that it could be possible in the present marketplace. 

The Tom Cruise film had what's presently on the record as only the seventh biggest opening weekend of 2022 ($126.7 million), but it will likely be remembered as the biggest domestic box office earner of the year – having brought in $718.7 million before the end of its big screen run.

Kate Winslet's character in Avatar The Way Of Water

(Image credit: Disney)

Of course, the ace that Avatar: The Way Of Water has up its sleeve is the overseas markets – particularly because it is one of the few American movies from 2022 that has been released theatrically in China. To go with the $134 million that Avatar 2 made in the United States and Canada, the blockbuster has brought in $300.5 million from foreign markets, putting its global total to date at $434.5 million. 

That figure means that it has already successfully outgrossed David Yates' Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore ($404.6 million) and has taken a place in the worldwide Top 10 for the year. It will only need to make $26 million more to catch up with Chiyu Zhang's Moon Man, but how high will it climb? Will it make the $334 million it needs to pass The Batman? What about the $504 million it would take to pass Kyle Balda's Minions: The Rise Of Gru? Could it bring in $1.05 billion more and take down Top Gun: Maverick?

There certainly are some big titles coming up in the first couple months of 2023 that may steal a significant amount of attention – including Gerard Johnstone's M3GAN, M. Night Shyamalan's Knock At The Cabin, and Peyton Reed's Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania.

A whole lot of eyes will be on the box office success of Avatar: The Way Of Water in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for updates.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Surpasses Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness At The 2022 Domestic Box Office

When Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered in theaters last month, the biggest question lingering over its first three days was in regard to whether or not it would steal the title of Biggest 2022 Opening Weekend away from Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. As you can draw from the numbers above, it ended up falling about $7 million shy of that goal, but the November release has proven to have stronger legs than the May blockbuster, and has now outgrossed it at the domestic box office.

As you can see in the chart, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever only made $5.4 million in the last three days, but that sum was enough to shift the rankings. Doctor Strange 2 earned $411.3 million during its time in cinemas, and Black Panther 2 has now brought in $415 million in the United States and Canada.

Obviously the Marvel film will continue to bring in money in the coming month, but it should be noted that it won't climb any higher than second place in the year's domestic ranking. The only title it sits behind at present is Top Gun: Maverick, and there is a zero percent chance that it will pull in an additional $303.7 million before the title fully shifts to the home video market. 

Will Babylon And Puss In Boots: The Last Wish Put A Dent In Avatar: The Way Of Water's Box Office Run?

Coming into December, we always knew that James Cameron's Avatar: The Way Of Water was going to be the biggest hit of the month, but will the wide releases of both Damian Chazelle's Babylon and Joel Crawford's Puss In Boots: The Last Wish this upcoming Friday end up changing the blockbuster's box office trajectory? Be sure to check in here on CinemaBlend next Sunday to see how things shake out.

For more about what's on the horizon from the world of film, check out our 2023 Movie Release Calendar.

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.