Box office: 'Avatar 2' will dominate 'Babylon', 'Puss in Boots 2'

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It’s about to be a very Pandora Christmas at the movies. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which opened solidly last weekend with $134 million, is poised to dominate the box office charts again in its second showing.

James Cameron’s sci-fi sequel added $16 million on Monday, taking its four-day domestic tally to $150 million. Internationally, the film made $38.8 million on Monday, bringing its international total to $346.8 million and the global result to $497.1 million. As of Tuesday, it will be one of eight films this year to cross the $500 million mark worldwide, and by the end of the year, the $350 million tentpole is aiming to hit the $350 million mark. $1 billion.

Over the long weekend, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is expected to drop 40% to 50% from its debut, putting ticket sales at around $67 million to $80 million. It is also expected to continue registering large numbers during the days leading up to Christmas, which falls on a Sunday.

With the release of “Avatar: The Way of Water”, Disney has surpassed $4 billion at the global box office to date. Thanks to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($955 million), “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($789 million and counting) and “Thor: Love and Thunder,” the studio tally is $4.049 billion. By comparison, Disney grossed a record $11 billion worldwide in 2019 from its string of blockbusters, including “Avengers: Endgame” and “The Lion King.”

This time around, “Avatar 2” has a little more competition on the marquees. Three great films – director Damien Chazelle’s showbiz epic “Babylon”, Universal’s animated film “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” and Sony’s Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – will open, but are not expected to “Avatar 2” is a big fight for the top spot. Overall, it’s a lighter-than-usual Christmas season, much to the disappointment of theater owners.

The “Puss in Boots” sequel, set in the “Shrek” universe, should secure the best start among newcomers, with projections of $25 million to $30 million from 4,000 North American theaters. It’s making a jump on the holiday weekend, opening on a Wednesday when the kids are off for winter break. The highest estimates wouldn’t be too far off the original “Puss in Boots,” which debuted with $34 million in 2011. The first “Shrek” spinoff ended up grossing $554 million globally, enough to warrant a sequel.

The animated adventure about a swashbuckling feline has already generated $14 million in 25 international markets. It will open in 28 additional markets, including China, Mexico and Spain, over the weekend.

With the exception of Universal and Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and its $939 million global haul, family movies have struggled mightily in times of a pandemic. “Puss in Boots 2,” which cost $90 million to make, appears to benefit from a lack of competition for the rest of the year. The next big movie aimed at younger audiences is “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which doesn’t open until April 2023.

“Babylon” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” will battle it out for third place, with each film expected to bring in $12 million to $15 million between Friday and Monday.

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” which finds Naomi Ackie embodying the late pop icon Whitney Houston, targets older women, another demographic that has been reluctant to go to the movies. The ratings have been under embargo since Tuesday afternoon, so it’s unclear how critical sentiment will affect turnout. Production cost $45 million. Recent musical biopics such as “Elvis,” “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” have resonated at the box office, though the Aretha Franklin story “Respect” has struggled to connect in theaters in times of pandemic.

The R-rated “Babylon,” with Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt as Hollywood stars amid a rapidly changing industry, cost $78 million to produce, so it will need to maintain momentum during awards season to justify its price. If not, it might just be the latest adult-directed drama to fail at the box office. The film won’t open internationally until January. If it misses the mark, however, it will be the only blemish in Paramount’s stellar box office year, with hits ranging from “Top Gun: Maverick” to the haunting thriller “Smile.”

“Babylon” generated mixed reviews, with some critics praising its ambition and glamor and others criticizing the confusing storyline. At three hours and nine minutes, its runtime will limit showings and potentially deter audiences. But hey, at least it’s shorter than “Avatar: The Way of Water”.