James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” has passed the billion-dollar mark at the global box office, but sluggish sales in China could weigh on the film’s final haul.
Worldwide ticket sales for the Disney film now stand at $1.03 billion, the combination of $317 million in domestic sales and $712 million from international markets.
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The milestone comes 14 days after “The Way of Water” debuted in theaters, five days faster than “Avatar” achieved the same benchmark in 2009. That places the film among the top five fastest movies to reach $1 billion in box-office sales.
Cameron previously said “The Way of Water” would need to hit $2 billion in box-office receipts in order to be considered profitable.
Box-office analysts believe Cameron’s flick could hit the lofty goal. “The Way of Water” has no direct or significant competition in theaters until mid-February when “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is released.
Still, industry experts are concerned by muted ticket sales from China. The market was expected to be a major source of revenue for the sequel, but has underperformed expectations as Covid once again roils the region.
Through Tuesday, China has accounted for just $108 million in ticket sales for the film. The country was expected to bring in $100 million in business during the film’s opening weekend alone.
“The Way of Water” is one of only a handful of Hollywood releases that have been permitted for a coveted release in China this year. China has become a dominant market in the global theatrical space and considered vital for blockbusters seeking top box-office numbers.
However, early this month, China abruptly ended many Covid controls. Infections have surged and pressed the country’s health-care system. At this point, it is unclear at what scale Covid outbreaks have hit the country, with few official figures on recent infections and deaths. China’s National Health Commission on Sunday stopped sharing daily figures after a halt in mandatory virus testing.
“There were high hopes placed on the country to deliver the additional revenue needed to help put the film over the top in terms of the lofty global earnings expectations set forth by director James Cameron,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
Dergarabedian said Cameron’s traditional box-office trajectory works in the film’s favor though, noting that previous releases like “Titanic” and the first “Avatar” had lengthy theatrical runs.
“Hopefully the troubling health situation will ease over time,” he said.