Christmas Weekend Box Office Is Exceptionally Depressing As Avatar: The Way Of Water Repeats At Number One And Babylon Flops

In the past, the Christmas holiday has been a time when families make special outings to their local movie theater to see the exciting blockbusters that have just arrived on the big screen... but that is not what we are seeing play out in the year 2022. While audiences were certainly given multiple options for entertainment in the new releases department, none of them managed to inspire much interest, and as such the weekend's box office results are pretty damn depressing.

Check out the latest Top 10 below, with James Cameron's Avatar: The Way Of Water still holding the #1 spot, and join me for analysis after.

Weekend Box Office Avatar: The Way Of Water December 23-25, 2022

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)
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1. Avatar: The Way Of Water$56,000,000 $253,681,686 14,202
2. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish*$11,350,000 $17,452,855 Row 1 - Cell 3 4,099
3. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody*$5,300,000 $5,300,000 Row 2 - Cell 3 3,625
4. Babylon*$3,500,000 $3,500,000 Row 3 - Cell 3 3,343
5. Violent Night$3,140,000 $41,608,460 32,562
6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever$3,022,000 $425,677,401 22,250
7. The Menu$617,000 $33,796,843 5840
8. The Fabelmans$550,000 $9,724,456 71,122
9. Strange World$410,000 $35,599,242 41,390
10. Devotion$180,000 $19,263,075 6427

Avatar: The Way Of Water's Domestic Numbers Dip 58 Percent Weekend-To-Weekend As Global Box Office Haul Eclipses $850 Million

In 2009 and 2010, many factors led to James Cameron's Avatar becoming the highest grossing film of all time – including months and months of hype, and tickets being sold at premium prices thanks to the novelty of 3D. One of the most significant was the fact that the blockbuster didn't just have short term success; it was the number one movie domestically for seven weeks in a row, and it stayed in the Top 5 for about two-and-a-half months.

Will Avatar: The Way Of Water be able to match that run? Based on this weekend's results, per The Numbers, it doesn't look particularly likely.

The new blockbuster recorded the fifth biggest opening weekend of 2022 last weekend (earning about $100,000 more than Matt Reeves' The Batman when all receipts were counted), but it's audience size comparably dropped about 58 percent in the last three days. The film added another $56 million to its earnings in the United States and Canada – bringing its at-home gross to date to $253.7 million – but the original Avatar didn't experience a weekend-to-weekend drop that big until its thirty-first week of release.

On the plus side, that $253.7 million number means that Avatar 2 is now ranked as the eighth biggest film of the year domestically, its earnings having surpassed those of Jeff Fowler's Sonic The Hedgehog 2. The movie is presently about $90 million away from surpassing the total earned by Taika Waititi's Thor: Love And Thunder, but it's going to nearly have to triple its box office grosses if it's going to surpass Joseph Kosinki's Top Gun: Maverick and go down in history as the biggest movie in America in 2022.

Lo'ak in Avatar: The Way of Water

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Of course, it's important to remember that foreign box office totals were always going to have a more significant impact on Avatar: The Way Of Water's ultimate theatrical performance than ticket sales in the United States and Canada. Of the $2.9 billion made by the first movie, about 73 percent came from overseas. That's a pattern that we are definitely seeing repeated with the sequel.

As depressing as the Christmas box office numbers in the chart above may be, Avatar 2 is crushing internationally, in large part thanks to its release in China. The movie's global total now sits at over $850 million, making it the third biggest earner among 2022 releases. Its next step is making 10 figures – which is something that only two other films have been able to do this year: the aforementioned Top Gun: Maverick and Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World: Dominion.

At present, it doesn't appear as though Avatar: The Way Of Water is going to fully live up to the legacy of its predecessor and be declared one of the most successful blockbusters of all time... but how will that impact the future and James Cameron's plans for multiple more Avatar sequels? Disney has not made anything official yet, though Cameron certainly has an ace up his sleeve in that he's spoken about how much of Avatar 3 and Avatar 4 have already been shot.

Damien Chazelle's Three-Hour Epic Babylon Fails To Find An Audience

Avatar: The Way Of Water may not be putting up mind-blowing numbers domestically, but theater owners can at the very least be happy that it's bringing people to their establishments at all when one considers how the rest of the Top 10 looks this weekend. Studios provided audiences with a variety of new releases to check out, but none of them did particularly well – and the standout of the bunch is sadly Damien Chazelle's Babylon.

A three-hour long epic about Hollywood history, Babylon has gotten mixed reactions since it premiere earlier this fall, and that unfortunately hasn't translated to a situation where movie-goers buy a ticket and form their own opinion. Despite the fact that the film has an all-star cast led by Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, it only managed to open in fourth place and make $3.5 million.

It will certainly go down as a significant loss for Paramount, as Variety says that the film was made with a reported $78 million budget. Fortunately, the blow of that big L at the box office will be softened by all of the other tremendous success that the studio has had in 2022, as their slate of wins in the past year includes Top Gun: Maverick, Parker Finn's Smile, Aaron and Adam Nee's The Lost City, Jeff Tremaine's Jackass Forever, and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett's Scream.

Additionally, it's worth noting that Damien Chazelle is still in a pretty solid position career-wise, as it was just a few weeks ago that the filmmaker signed a multi-year first-look directing and producing deal with Paramount. The writer/director and the studio will obviously look forward to a bounce back after this disappointment.

As things stand, 2022 is going to be coming to close on a down note where the box office is concerned – unless something happens in the next week that sees people suddenly inspired to rush to theaters at the end of the year and boost the numbers for Avatar: The Way Of Water, Babylon, Joel Crawford's Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, and/or Kasi Lemmons's Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Hopefully 2023 will be a better year for movie-going, starting with the hyped release of Gerard Johnstone's M3GAN on January 6.

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.