Disney and James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” snared an estimated $56 million during its second weekend in theaters, a 58% drop from its debut.
A decline in ticket sales is common for blockbuster titles, with most seeing a 50% to 70% slip. This metric, known as the second-week drop, is often used as an indicator of whether a film will have longevity at the box office or may fizzle quickly.
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Films that fall less than 50% are expected to have solid, long runs, while those that top 70% are likely to see ticket sales continue to sharply decline as the movie fades from the public eye.
“The second-weekend drop for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ puts it right in the zone of where it needs to be as this performance will set the tone for the ongoing box office journey for the film,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
Box office analysts noted that cold winter weather and storms during the Christmas weekend likely led to slower ticket sales domestically.
Additionally, international ticket sales continue to thrive. The second-week drop for markets outside the U.S. and Canada was 43.9%. It was always expected that “The Way of Water” would generate at least 70% of its box office from international ticket sales and that is exactly where the split stands as of Sunday.
“The Way of Water” has generated $855 million in global ticket sales since its Dec. 16 release — $254 million domestically and $601 million from international markets. At present, it is the fifth-highest-grossing film released in 2022.
Paramount and Skydance’s “Top Gun: Maverick” is the current leader with $1.48 billion worldwide, followed by Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” ($1 billion), Disney and Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($952 million) and Universal and Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” ($939 million).
“The Way of Water’s” haul stands at less than half of what Cameron said the film needs to generate in order to be considered profitable. Despite waning word of mouth, which has focused on stunning visuals felled by a lackluster plot, the “Avatar” sequel has room to run at the box office.
The next major blockbuster — Disney and Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” — doesn’t hit theaters until Feb. 17, leaving “The Way of Water” a long stretch at the box office without hefty competition.
“January is absent much direct competition against the film,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “That’s when the Avatar sequel could make up for any perceived lost ground toward reaching long-term expectations, if it’s going to.”
“We live in a world where the craving for instant gratification leads to early results being used as the final barometer of a film’s success,” he said. “Realistically, sometimes that makes sense, but sometimes it doesn’t. This is one of the latter situations.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is the distributor of “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”