With the Christmas winter storms no longer a factor, 20th Century’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” and Universal/DreamWorks’ “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” are both showing strongholds at the New Year’s weekend box office, a sign that they will keep bringing out audiences well into January.
“Avatar 2” is currently estimated for a 4-day weekend of $87 million in North America, holding its drop from Christmas weekend to just 8% after dropping 37% the previous weekend. By the end of Monday, James Cameron’s blockbuster will be on the doorstep of $450 million domestically and have blown by $1.3 billion in worldwide grosses.
The film’s $134 million opening weekend was below independent projections of a $150-170 million opening, prompting a drop in Disney’s stock price and murmurs in financial publications that “Avatar 2” was going to disappoint theatrically. But the film’s fate was never going to be written in opening weekend, and now the film is not only ahead of the domestic pace set by the first “Avatar” in 2009, but also 11% ahead of the pace set by 2022’s biggest hit, “Top Gun: Maverick,” which grossed $401 million through its third Monday in theaters this summer.
“Avatar 2” should pass “Maverick” and the $1.5 billion global mark sometime this coming week, but how far it goes beyond that will be determined by how well it holds domestically and globally next weekend as the holiday period ends. The first “Avatar” had a domestic drop of 26% on the weekend of Jan. 8, 2010. If “The Way of Water” performs similarly, then a $2 billion global total, something believed to be out of reach after COVID-19 outbreaks hampered the Chinese box office, will be back on the table.
Meanwhile, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is showing signs that it can still fulfill its destiny as a family alternative to “Avatar 2” despite the weak opening. With excellent word-of-mouth behind it, the DreamWorks sequel is estimated to earn a 4-day second weekend of $21.6 million, a 10% increase from the $20 million it earned during Christmas weekend.
That would give the film a domestic total of $65 million after 13 days in theaters, roughly 30% behind the pace of Universal/Illumination’s “Sing 2” last year. With that pace, it is unlikely that “Puss in Boots 2” will match the $402 million global total of “Sing 2” but still has a chance to turn a slight theatrical profit against its reported $90 million total before it reaches digital on-demand and streaming.
But there’s no hope for Sony’s “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody” or Paramount’s “Babylon,” both of which are sliding under the eighth weekend of Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” on this weekend’s charts. “Wakanda Forever,” which has passed $800 million in global grosses, is adding around $7 million domestically over the four-day weekend.
“Whitney Houston” is currently estimated for a $5.2 million 4-day second weekend, which would bring the film’s total to $15 million against a co-financed budget of $45 million before marketing costs. “Babylon,” which has an even higher budget of $78 million, is in fifth with just $4 million grossed this weekend, which would give it a two-weekend total of just $11.4 million as Paramount turns to overseas releases in January just to mitigate losses.