'Avatar: The Way of Water' brings in $8 million more on Sunday than previously thought

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The cumulative weekend box office total ended at $94 million, $7 million above initial projections.

As industry watchers suggested yesterday, “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) did much better over Christmas than the studio initially estimated. Actual domestic gross was $29.5 million, not $21.5 million. The three-day weekend total was $64 million, not $54 million as originally stated, $261,682,000 cumulative.

This is of course a huge thumbs up for the film, as December 26th is also a holiday that usually nets even more than Christmas. With eight more vacation days until Jan. 2, based on its Christmas Day showing, James Cameron’s film could have an additional $150 million or more at the domestic box office added to the total. That would take it significantly over $400 million, before a pretty free ride for several weeks as the likely No. 1, even with diminishing totals. This suggests the film could have a domestic total closer to $600 million rather than the lower projected opening numbers.

The three-day drop was 52% from its opening weekend, as opposed to the 58% originally reported. That compares well to “Rogue One,” which dominated Christmas in 2016, when the calendar last matched this year. This is particularly significant as the weather took a heavy toll on Friday and Saturday, further hurting the box office.

Interestingly, among the weekend’s top ten films, only “The Way of Water” failed to more than double its Christmas Eve gross. This isn’t unusual when a movie does most of the business. Significant pre-orders could also have helped on Saturday, with those who might have held off still going.

#2 “Puss in Boots: The Next Exit” (Universal) improved over $1 million to initial estimates with $12,420,000. #3 “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (Sony) dropped significantly from the initial estimate. It took $4,765,000, not the initially estimated $5,300,000. “Babylon” (Paramount), although improved by $100,000, was still a weak $3,600,000.

Other changes include “The Fabelmans” (Universal) actually improving last weekend by 1 percent, with a very strong Sunday bringing its weekend total to $750,000 from an initial $550,000 and moving up to 7th place. From India, “Cirkus” (Reliance) finished in 10th place.

Previously unreleased, “No Bears” (Janus), by jailed Iranian director Jafar Panahi, fetched a decent $10,000 at an exclusive screening in New York.

While “The Way of Water’s” improved receipts are indeed good news, the three-day weekend still grossed just $94 million. That’s 62% less than in 2019, when ticket prices were 20% lower and more than a third lower than last year (with a more favorable calendar of December 24-26).

top 10 (3 day estimates)

1. Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$64,000,000 (-582%) at 4,202 (no change) theaters; PTA (average per theater): $15,231; Cumulative: $261,682,000

2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 75; Husa. Budget: $90 million

$12,420,000 at 4,099 theaters; PTA: $3,030; Accumulated: $18,522,000

3. Whitney Houston: I want to dance with someone (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: N/A Metacritic: 55; Husa. Budget: $45 million

$4,765,000 from 3,625 theaters; PTA: $1,314; Cumulative: $4,765,000

4. Babylon (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic: 59; Husa. Budget: $80 million

$3,600,000 from 3,343 theaters; PTA: $1,077; Cumulative: $3,600,000

5. Violent Night (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #3; also in PVOD

$3,530,000 (-30%) at 2,562 (-966) theaters; PTA: $1,378; Cumulative: $41,998,000

6. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney) Week 7; Last weekend #2

$3,500,000 (-35%) at 2,250 (-1,130) theaters; PTA: $1,556; Cumulative: $426,155,000

7. The Whale (A24) Week 3; Last weekend #15

$1,009,000 (+597%) at 603 (+597) theaters; PTA: $1,673; Cumulative: $2,557,000

9. The Menu (Reflector) Week 6; Last weekend #5

$680,000 (-58%) at 840 (-1,035) theaters; PTA: $810; Cumulative: $33,859,000

8. The Fabelmans (Universal) Week 6; Last Weekend #7; also in PVOD

$750,000 (+1%) at 1,122 (+167) theaters; PTA: $668; Cumulative: $9,924,000

10. circus (Confidence) NEW

$(est.) 440,000 at 557 theaters; PTA: $790; Cumulative: $(est.) 440,000

specialized titles

Movies (limited, limited expansions, as well as premium-oriented releases) are listed by week at release, starting with those opening this week; after the first two weeks, only films with a gross over $5,000 are tracked.

bouquet (IFC) NEW – Metacritic: 82; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2022

$32,500 in theaters; PTA: $16,250

women talking (United Artists) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Telluride, Toronto, New York 2022

$41,000 at 8 theaters; Estimated PTA: $5,125

Alive (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 81; Festivals include: Sundance, Telluride, Toronto 2022

$22,784 in 3 theaters; PTA: $7,595

no bears (Janus) NEW – Metacritic: 90; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, New York 2022

$10,000 on 1 theater; PTA: $10,000

empire of light (Reflector) Week 3

$83,000 from 350(-86) theaters; PTA: $237; Cumulative: $679,584

All the beauty and the bloodshed (Neon) Week 5

$10,549 at 25 (-23) theaters; Cumulative: $251,230

IT’S THE (Janus) Week 6

$62,500 at 36 (+3) theaters; Cumulative: $343,545

Inisherin’s Banshees (Reflector) Week 11; also on HBO Max and PVOD

$40,000 at 80(-85) theaters; Cumulative: $8,896,000

TAR (Focus) Week 12; also in PVOD

$17,000 at 36 (-27) theaters; Cumulative: $5,506,000

Triangle of Sadness (Neon) Week 12; also on VOD

$9,507 at 14 theaters; Cumulative: $4,086,000

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