Will the Return To Pandora Be a Historic Event? Box Office and Critical Analysis [Part 2 of 2]

Courtesy of IMDB

13 years ago, filmmaker James Cameron took us to the 3D world of Pandora in his 2009 film Avatar. He pushed the limits of moviemaking technology using motion-capture for the blue humanoid species called the Navi, who play a main role in the film. The first significant use of this technology was with the creature Gollum in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy in the early 2000s. When Avatar hit theaters in December of 2009, many were skeptical about the film. It was released to huge acclaim, and went on to become the highest grossing film of all time! Grossing a whopping $2.743 billion dollars at the worldwide box office, it surpassed the previous highest grossing film of all time by exactly $900 million. Titanic (1997) grossed $1.843 billion at the box office (original 1997 release), which ironically was also directed by James Cameron. The film went on to win 3 Oscars, including best cinematography, and best visual effects. The film was also nominated for best picture.


Diving into the meat of this new film, there are 2 things that have to happen to define Avatar as a historic blockbuster (like E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, the original Star Wars, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, e.t.c). The first would be the film’s critical and audience reception. Upon release, Avatar scored critical and audience acclaim around the globe. Audience reception overtime has loosened with more modest franchises taking the spotlight. Today, the original film surprisingly has left little cultural impact, but this could be its secret weapon. James Cameron himself was concerned about how much audiences would even remember about the movie—like the characters’ names— and how that would affect the film’s performance. Cameron was concerned up until April of 2022, when the teaser trailer for the film dropped and pulled in a whopping 148.6 million views within the first 24 hours of being online.

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

On the critical side of things, there is one other factor that may be a good sign, too: James Cameron’s legendary sequels. 7 years (a long time) after Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) released, James Cameron made an action packed horror sequel titled Aliens (1986), which performed better than the original and by many is actually considered equal or superior to the original. 2 years before Aliens, James Cameron made his first major film: The Terminator. It was a critical and commercial hit (currently 100% on rotten tomatoes). 7 years later he made an amazing action packed emotional sequel titled Terminator 2: Judgment Day. T2 went on to become the highest grossing film of 1991, and was considered an amazing sequel by both audiences and critics. Staying at the directors chair, Cameron is returning to direct the Avatar sequels. Avatar: The Way of Water will hopefully be another example of James Cameron’s wonderful sequels. 


Now, the other side of the coin of Avatar’s first explosion is the box office. The first Avatar is currently the highest grossing film of all time and is about $75 million shy of $3 billion. Solid box office projections for the film are not in yet, and they are going to be quite volatile all the way up until the film drops on December 16th. Here’s my analysis and my early predictions for the film’s box office potential. Let’s face it: James Cameron’s movies always make a ton of money. Earlier this year, the original Avatar was re-released in theaters worldwide and made a very healthy $76 million. For the domestic opening weekend, I am predicting an opening around $200 million. However, the film could open to even more than Spider-Man: No Way Home, which was around $260 million. This film, like the first Avatar and like this year’s Top Gun Maverick, may rely on the long haul to collect its domestic total. I predict the total domestic total for the film to be around $650 to 950 million. Now, internationally speaking, the film is going to perform slightly better (as did the first one). International totals could be between $1-2 billion dollars. 

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

For total overall worldwide box office, the film will be a bomb if it does not pass $1 billion dollars, but the film really needs to have anything above $2 billion in order to prove the Avatar haters wrong. In my personal opinion, it is unlikely that  Avatar: The Way of Water will surpass its predecessor and pass the $3 billion mark. This film will decide the fate of the cinema industry—whether unbelievably good quality, artisan, epic films are truly respected anymore or if cheapie superheroes have taken over control. 

In case you have yet to see the first film,  Avatar is available for streaming on Disney+, and on Blu-Ray/DVD. Avatar: The Way of Water will follow Jake Sully and his wife Neytiri 13 years later. Jake and Neytiri now have a family. Together they have been exploring the vast oceanic world of Pandora, but they face a problem once again. The RDA is back to finish what they started 13 years ago, and this time they’re ready for a fight. The Na’vi must come together again to battle their old enemy. Jake and his family will face deep struggles and show what family is really about, the lengths Jake Sully will go for his family. Avatar: The Way of Water hits theaters everywhere, in all formats, on December 16th 2022 with an epic runtime of 3 hours and 10 minutes…