Like its predecessor, Avatar: The Way of Water is already one of the highest-grossing movies of all time
However, it still has a long way to go to break even for James Cameron
Future Avatar sequels could be scrapped if the franchise doesn’t continue to make money
How long will it be before Avatar: The Way of Water makes a profit?
13 years after James Cameron first took us to the dense jungles of Pandora, Avatar: The Way of Water is now in cinemas. The long-awaited sequel is the second chapter in a proposed five-movie arc, but that’s only if Cameron can keep winning at the box office.
In 2023, Avatar: The Way of Water has a deep ocean to navigate if it’s going to claw back its production costs and get anywhere near its predecessor.
Read more: Will audiences suffer Pandora withdrawal again?
But, what’s going on with Avatar 2 and can it turn a profit for 20th Century Studios — a subsidiary of Disney — or is the franchise dead in the water?
Although the original Avatar was once the highest-grossing movie of all time, it was later dethroned by 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. While it looked like nothing would be able to top the Avengers assembling after Thanos’ snap, Avatar’s re-release in 2021 saw it reclaim the top spot.
With technology having come such a long way since 2009, Cameron hoped to recapture the magic of the original by pushing The Way of Water beyond what we’ve seen before. Alongside the use of high frame rate (HFR) technology running at 48 frames per second instead of the industry standard of 24, and game-changing underwater filming, there was also a huge marketing budget. If that wasn’t enough, adding Hollywood megastars like Kate Winslet to the cast means Avatar has to make a small fortune to break even.
Originally, Cameron said The Way of Water needed to make $2 billion (£1.669 billion) to turn a profit. Culture Crave reports that Cameron later said, “I was a little inaccurate with that,” and has since dialled his estimations back to $1.5 billion (£1.252 billion).
Cameron took plenty of heat for this, with his critics saying he gave unrealistic predictions to make die-hard fans flock to cinemas.
Watch: James Cameron tells Yahoo his kids were not Avatar fans
The general rule of thumb is that a film needs to earn at least double the original budget before it is in the black. Early reports suggested Way of Water had a budget of $250m, so a goal of $1.5 billion suggests that original budget was way more than we thought, or that they spent way more than usual to promote it. The latter seems more likely.
The reevaluated numbers are a sizeable drop, which takes The Way of Water from needing to be the third or fourth highest-grossing movie of all time to around the tenth. According to Box Office Mojo’s updated rankings (as of 5 January), 2022’s Top Gun: Maverick is currently in 11th place with $1.49 billion, while Furious 7 has $1.52 billion.
At the time of writing, Avatar 2 is in 12th place with $1.482 billion and falls just behind Avengers: Age of Ultron’s $1.402 billion. It continues to climb, with Forbes predicting it’ll be in 7th or 8th place (around Jurassic World and The Lion King) before Sunday, 8 January.
It comes after a worrying $435 million holiday debut weekend, which widely missed Avatar 2's projected $500 – $600 million. A surge of coronavirus cases in China are thought to be a contributing factor, but still, The Way of Water had the second-biggest opening of 2022 and just fell short of Top Gun: Maverick.
Importantly, it earned $152.8 million in China, the biggest market outside the United States.
Taking all of this into account, Avatar: The Way of Water is on track to reach that seemingly impossible $2 billion before it leaves our screens. All of this is down to more than just a whopping marketing budget that’s reported to be between $350-400 million.
Cameron implored us to go and watch the first Avatar in cinemas, telling The New York Times that those who hadn’t seen the 2009 movie on the big screen 'really haven’t seen it'. This mantra fed through into The Way of Water, with the box office recovering from those worrying post-COVID releases like Black Widow.
The holiday box office was less kind to Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, which slumped out with a measly $11 million domestic against a $78 million budget. Then again, it didn’t have the same marketing might of Avatar 2, while naysayers maintain they hadn’t even heard of it.
Read more: Avatar 2 reviews range from 1 to 5 stars
We know Avatar 3 is definitely on the way after being shot back-to-back with The Way of Water, and with the latter’s roaring box office, Avatar 4 and 5 are looking more likely by the day. Good news because Cameron has already shot huge chunks of Avatar 4 and confirmed he’s fully written the script for the fifth.
The question is, will each Avatar need to make an increasingly large amount of money?
Cameron isn’t afraid to flex the bank balance with the Avatar movies. The lengthy wait between the OG and The Way of Water likely contributed to higher costs — along with the fact he completely threw out his first screenplay for Avatar 2. However, the wait also drummed up interest as fans tuned in to see whether he could match 2009’s outing.
According to movie journalist Jeff Sneider (via The Hot Mic podcast), the director wants to submit a nine-hour and full VFX cut of Avatar 3 to Disney before trimming it down. All of this costs money, but with The Way of Water continuing to make a small fortune and maintaining a positive 92% audience and 77% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, the franchise is holding strong for now.
Read more: Hollywood star regrets turning down Avatar
Avatar 3 is apparently called The Seed Bearer and is scheduled for a Christmas 2024 release, and will introduce dark 'fire Na'vi' according to Cameron, followed by Avatar 4 in 2026.
Producer Jon Landau told io9 there are grand plans to visit Earth in Avatar 5, so we can already see the budget spiralling. Then again, it's just as possible that Cameron could shut the whole thing down again.
The man in charge previously told Total Film he’ll keeping making Avatar movies as long as they're profitable, but warned he could easily say, “OK, let's complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly.”
Much like how it was wait and see with The Way of Water, all eyes will be on Avatar 3's box office return to see whether we get a trilogy or a quintology. When/if Avatar 5 hits screens in 2028, are we looking at mythical charts where the Top 5 highest-grossing movies of all time are all Avatar?
We’re not sure yet… but either way the old saying remains true: never bet against James Cameron.
Avatar: The Way of Water is in cinemas now. Watch a trailer below.
It’s showing no signs of stopping, either
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered a 36-hour ceasefire in Ukraine to run during Orthodox Christmas, a move quickly dismissed by war-battered Kyiv and its allies. Putin's directive to his troops was announced days after Moscow suffered its deadliest reported loss of the invasion, following 11 months of brutal combat — and as Ukraine's allies indicated that fresh military aid was on the way. Both nations celebrate Orthodox Christmas and the Russian leader's order came following ceasefire calls from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill, a staunch Putin supporter. "Taking into account the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, I instruct the defence minister of the Russian Federation to introduce… a ceasefire along the entire line of contact between the sides in Ukraine," said a Kremlin statement. It will run from 12:00 (0900 GMT) January 6, until 24:00 (2100 GMT) on January 7, the Kremlin said. Kyiv quickly denounced the move. Russia "must leave the occupied territories — only then will it have a 'temporary truce'," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter. "Keep hypocrisy to yourself." US President Joe Biden was equally dismissive of Putin's announcement. "He was ready to bomb hospitals and nurseries and churches" on December 25 and on New Year's Day, he said. "I think he's trying to find some oxygen." And German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on Twitter: "A so-called ceasefire brings neither freedom nor security to people living in daily fear under Russian occupation." – Orthodox Christmas – Russia occupies parts of eastern and southern Ukraine after 11 months of fighting, but Kyiv has reclaimed swathes of its territory and this week claimed a New Year's strike that killed scores of Moscow's troops. After votes that were internationally branded as farces, Russia annexed the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions despite not fully controlling them. Putin is open to dialogue with Ukraine if Kyiv recognises "the new territorial realities", said the Kremlin, in a summary of his telephone conversation with Erdogan Thursday. "The Russian side emphasised the destructive role of Western states, pumping the Kyiv regime with weapons and military equipment, providing it with operational information and targets," it added. The Kremlin's response was directed to the ceasefire appeal by Russia's spiritual leader Patriarch Kirill, an outspoken supporter of Putin. The 76-year-old Orthodox leader has given his blessing to Russian troops fighting in Ukraine and delivered heavily anti-Western and anti-Kyiv sermons throughout the conflict. Kirill made his appeal "so that Orthodox people can attend services on Christmas Eve and on the day of the Nativity of Christ", he said on the church's official website Thursday. The Kremlin's decision to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022 resulted in many clerics who had continued to remain loyal to Kirill turning away from Moscow. In May, the Moscow-backed branch of Ukraine's Orthodox Church severed ties with Russia, citing his lack of condemnation of the fighting. – More arms for Ukraine – News of Putin's ceasefire order came as German government sources told AFP Thursday both Berlin and Washington were planning a "qualitative new step" in their weapons deliveries to Ukraine. "We are constantly looking at what more we can do in terms of military support," Germany's Baerbock told journalists Thursday, including "defensive weapons" and arms needed to "free occupied territory". Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz has faced renewed calls to deliver Leopard light tanks, long sought by Kyiv, after French President Emmanuel Macron announced the delivery of French-made AMX-10 RC light tanks to Ukraine. Macron's announcement on Wednesday made France the first western country to announce the delivery of such weapons to Ukraine. "The argument constantly advanced by the chancellery that Germany must not go it alone is absolutely out of date," said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who heads the German parliament's defence committee. "France is once again taking on the role that was expected of Germany, and is going ahead alone," she told AFP. – Worst single loss – Putin's ceasefire order came a day after Moscow lifted its reported toll in its worst single reported loss from a Ukrainian strike to 89 dead. Ukraine's military strategic communications unit has said nearly 400 Russian soldiers died in the town of Makiivka in eastern Ukraine, held by pro-Russian forces. Even Russian commentators have said the death toll may be far higher than the Kremlin's figures. The deadly Makiivka strike came after months of discontent within Russia towards the military following a series of battlefield defeats and a hugely unpopular mobilisation drive. bur-jj/gw
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Prince Harry's autobiography "Spare" is not due out until next week but it dominated headlines on Thursday after a Spanish-language version of the memoir mistakenly went on sale. The book was hurriedly withdrawn from shelves in Spain but not before copies were obtained by media outlets, who pored over its contents — and its implications for Britain's most famous family. The blunder, despite a worldwide embargo until Tuesday, came after the Guardian newspaper's US edition revealed on Wednesday night that it had seen a copy of the book and published key excerpts. They include how Harry was allegedly physically attacked by his older brother, Prince William, in a blazing 2019 row about his wife, Meghan. Other revelations include how he was told of the death of his mother Princess Diana in a car crash in 1997, and how he received a message from her from beyond the grave via a woman with "powers". Harry also touches on his strained relationship with his father, King Charles III, and how he and William pleaded with him not to marry his long-term mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles. There are disclosures about his use of cocaine as a teenager, the "humiliating" loss of his virginity to an older woman in a field behind a pub, and his time as a soldier hunting Taliban extremists. The recollections feature an acknowledgement that he killed 25 people while serving as an Apache attack helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. "It's not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me," he wrote, likening hitting his targets to knocking "chess pieces" from a board. The candid revelation could heighten fears about his safety, after he already flagged concerns about the withdrawal of his state-funded security following his move to the United States with Meghan in 2020. But the immediate focus was on the escalation of his bitter feud with heir-to-the-throne William, 40, and whether the damage to their relationship and with his wider family could ever be repaired. – 'Harold' – Harry wrote that his fight with William came after his brother called Meghan "difficult", "rude" and "abrasive". The incident in 2019 — the year after Harry and Meghan married — allegedly saw William tackle his younger brother to the ground as they argued. "He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor," said The Guardian, quoting from the book. "I landed on the dog's bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me." Harry then told William to leave. William looked "regretful, and apologised", Harry recalled, according to the newspaper. The report said William turned and called back: "You don't need to tell Meg about this." "You mean that you attacked me?" said Harry. "I didn't attack you, Harold," responded William — whom Harry calls "Willy" — using a nickname for his brother, whose birth name is Henry. – Misery – Harry and Meghan, a mixed-race former television actress, have fired a string of salvos against his family in TV interviews as well as in a recent six-part Netflix documentary. The autobiography's release will be preceded by a series of interviews in Britain and the United States due to air this weekend. Charles, 74, is to be officially crowned in May but Harry said he was not certain to attend. "There's a lot that can happen between now and then," he said in a clip from an interview with ITV to be aired on Sunday evening. "The ball is in their court. There's a lot to be discussed. And I really hope that they are willing to sit down and talk about it." Charles, according to the Guardian excerpt, pleaded with his sons to end their feud after the funeral of his father, Prince Philip, in April 2021. "Please, boys," Harry quotes his father as saying. "Don't make my final years a misery." – Briefing – Harry told ITV he still believed in the monarchy, though he did not know if he would play any part in its future. He has railed against media intrusions but was asked if he was doing the same by lifting the lid on his family strife. "That would be the accusation from the people who don't understand or don't want to believe that my family have been briefing the press," he added. In London, there was some criticism as the latest claims dominated social media chatter and the airwaves. "I'm just tired of it all," Catherine Doherty, a 63-year-old secretary, told AFP. "I don't know how many times he's got to say these things." har-phz/jj/js
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Colonialism was born from the greed for spices and led to today’s globalised world. I know because it’s my family’s story ‘The desire for spices such as pepper drove European expeditions eastwards.’ Photograph: fcafotodigital/Getty Images
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