disney and James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” grossed an estimated $56 million in 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 statistic, known as the second-week dropout, is often used as an indicator of whether a movie will have longevity at the box office or fizzle out quickly.
Movies dropping below 50% are expected to have solid, long runs, while movies with a top 70% are likely to see ticket sales fall sharply as the movie fades from the public eye.
“The second weekend drop for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ puts it right in the zone 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 over the Christmas weekend likely led to slower ticket sales domestically.
In addition, international ticket sales continue to grow. The second week decline for markets outside the US and Canada was 43.9%. “The Way of Water” was always expected to generate at least 70% of its box office from international ticket sales and that’s exactly where the split stands as of Sunday.
“The Way of Water” has generated $855 million in worldwide ticket sales since its release on December 16 — $254 million domestically and $601 million in international markets. Currently, it is the fifth highest-grossing film to be released in 2022.
Decisive and Skydance’s “Top Gun: Maverick” is the current leader with $1.48 billion worldwide, followed by Universals “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 revenue from “The Way of Water” is less than half of what Cameron said the film must generate to be considered profitable. Despite dwindling word of mouth, which focused on stunning visuals felled by a lackluster plot, the sequel to “Avatar” has room to turn at the box office.
The next big blockbuster – Disney and Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” – doesn’t hit theaters until February 17th, leaving “The Way of Water” a long stretch at the box office without stiff competition.
“January is without much direct competition with the movie,” said Shawn Robbins, principal analyst at BoxOffice.com. “That’s when the Avatar sequel could make up any perceived lost ground toward reaching long-term expectations, if that’s going to happen.”
“We live in a world where the desire for instant gratification leads to early results being used as the final barometer of a movie’s success,” he said. “Realistically, sometimes that makes sense, but sometimes it doesn’t. This is one of the last situations.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and TBEN. NBCUniversal is the distributor of “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”