Disney’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” has landed a coveted release in China, a promising sign for a film that needs big box office sales to offset its massive budget.
The long awaited sequel to 2009’s “Avatar” is one of only a few Hollywood films that have been granted access to the Chinese market in recent months. Government officials in the region, which began tightening restrictions on Western films even before the pandemic, have been strict about which films can be screened for its entertainment hungry audience.
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The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and was posted on 20th Century Studios’ official Weibo account.
Director James Cameron has not placed a price tag on “The Way of Water,” but estimates suggest it is in excess of $250 million. The writer and director told GQ magazine that the sequel budget is so high, that the film will need to become the third or fourth-highest grossing film in history to break even. That means the film will need to crack the $2 billion mark globally.
International ticket sales, in general, were a major factor in “Avatar’s” box office success in 2009, as $2.13 billion of the film’s total $2.91 billion in ticket sales came from outside the domestic market. China contributed around $265 million.
Prior to the pandemic, China was the second-highest grossing theatrical market in the world. Since cinemas reopened in the country, it has been one of the fastest markets to recover and generate box office success.
In 2009, China’s overall box office reached $910 million. A decade later, its box office topped $8 billion.
Perhaps most important about this release is that it will take place on Dec. 16, the same day as its domestic debut. Disney saw success with this strategy when it released “Avengers: Endgame” on the same day in the U.S. and China, leading to the highest global opening weekend in cinematic history.
“Avatar” saw great success in China during its initial release, and subsequent rerelease in early 2021, as audiences flocked to cinemas to see the film in premium formats. These screenings are more expensive than traditional laser or digital showings and can bolster overall ticket sales.