Dec 20, 2022 - Economy

"Avatar: The Way of Water" disappointing debut irks Disney investors

Photo from the Avatar movie

Photo: Disney

Shares in Disney have dropped by nearly 5% in response to a disappointing debut for its highly anticipated "Avatar" sequel "The Way of Water."

Why it matters: Investors are looking to see whether Disney can increase profitability in its traditional businesses, like theaters and parks, as its streaming losses continue to mount. "Avatar: The Way of Water" needs to bring in at least $2 billion globally over its lifetime to reach profitability.

  • Its performance will determine whether the famous James Cameron movie franchise lives on past its second installation.

Details: The sci-fi sequel brought in $134 million in its domestic debut, per Comscore, less than the roughly $150 million Disney initially expected.

  • Disney lowered its full-weekend projections on Saturday after the film brought in $53 million in its first two days domestically.
  • Despite little competition at the box office over the weekend, the film wasn't able to lure as many moviegoers as previous hits this year.
  • "The Way of Water" was the sixth-highest domestic opener of the year, following Disney's "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" ($187 million), Disney's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" ($181 million), Universal's "Jurassic World: Dominion" ($145 million), Disney's "Thor: Love and Thunder" ($144 million) and Warner Bros.' "The Batman" ($134 million).

Yes, but: Despite lower-than-expected results, the film still opened as the top film in every market it was shown in globally, helping it bring in $301 million internationally for a total of $435 million in its worldwide debut.

  • That total made the "Avatar" sequel the third-highest global weekend debut in the pandemic era, per Comscore.
  • "Cameron's films have always been marathon runners, not sprinters, so it's the final gross that will be key," Comscore's senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Axios last week.

By the numbers: The first "Avatar," which came out around the same time in December 2009, grossed $77 million during its opening weekend.

  • Even the most successful of films have an average drop-off of around 40% in their second weekends."Avatar" dropped less than 2% to earn $75 million over that year's Christmas weekend.
  • "Top Gun: Maverick," the highest-grossing domestic release of 2022, dropped 26% during its second weekend in early June.
Avatar domestic box office revenue
Data: Box Office Mojo; Chart: Axios Visuals

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