Surging ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Grosses $8 Million More Sunday than Expected

As industry observers suggested yesterday, “Avatar: The Way of Water” (Disney) did much better on Christmas than the studio initially estimated. The 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.

That of course is a major positive sign for the film, with December 26 also a holiday that has usually grossed even better than Christmas. With eight more days of holiday play through January 2, based on the Christmas Day performance, James Cameron’s film could see an additional $150 million or more domestic box office added to its total. That would get it significantly over $400 million, before a fairly free ride for several weeks as the likely #1, even with decreasing totals. That suggests the film could see a domestic total closer to $600 million rather than the lower guess initial numbers were projecting.

The drop for the three days was 52 percent from opening weekend, as opposed to the 58 percent originally reported. This compares well to “Rogue One,” which dominated Christmas in 2016 when the calendar last matched up with this year. This is particularly significant since weather had a major impact both Friday and Saturday, further hurting box office.

Curiously, among the Top Ten films for the weekend, only “The Way of Water” didn’t more than double its Christmas Eve gross. That is not unusual when one film does most of the business. Significant pre-buys also could have aided it Saturday, with those who might otherwise have deferred still going.

Among early revised numbers still coming in, #3 “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (Sony) fell significantly from its initial estimate. It took in $4,765,000, not the $5,300,000 initially estimated. “Babylon” (Paramount), though improving by $100,000, was still a weak $3,600,000.

Though the better grosses for “The Way of Water” are indeed good news, the three-day weekend still took in only $94 million. That’s 62 percent less than 2019, when ticket prices were 20 percent lower, and down more than a third from last year (with a more favorable December 24-26 calendar).

Disney reported only domestic results, with details to come on full international tallies.

A revised chart with actual grosses is forthcoming as all figures are reported.

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