Source: Walt Disney Studios
The Na’vi return to the big screen this weekend as Disney looks to reignite interest in its newly acquired Avatar franchise, three months before the launch of the long-delayed sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water.”
Bringing the highest-grossing film of all time back to theaters serves two purposes for Disney: to generate excitement for “The Way of Water” and to fill a vacant spot in the theatrical calendar. The sequel is one of four planned for the next decade.
The re-release of the original film is something of a litmus test of whether audiences still want to visit its eco-conscious sci-fi world.
“Many questions have been asked about the film’s pop culture legacy over the past decade, but we must also remember that James Cameron has already been questioned and proven wrong,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.
Directed by Cameron, the mastermind behind “Titanic” and “The Terminator,” “Avatar” opened in late 2009 to wide acclaim and huge financial success, ultimately earning nine Oscar nominations. But it never captured the cultural relevance that Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe – both also owned by Disney – have enjoyed. Toy sales have plummeted, and cosplayers wearing heavy blue makeup at pop culture fan conventions have become rare.
“Naturally, all eyes will be on box office performance this weekend, as this may serve as an indicator of public interest in the December release of ‘The Way of Water,'” Paul said. Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
“Avatar” captivated audiences over a decade ago, in part because of the technology Cameron helped develop to film and animate the film. The film was shot using the Fusion Camera System, which was created by Cameron and cinematographer Vince Pace. Oscar-nominated films like Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” and Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi” have also used this camera system.
Previous systems used two cameras because the filmmakers determined that the human brain processes different information from different sides of the brain. Thus, one part of the brain would process the movement of the image, while the other would process what is happening in the image.
Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, “Avatar: The Way of the Water” tells the story of the Sully family.
Cameron and Pace designed a camera capable of capturing images in the same way as a human eye. The results were stunning – just look at the ticket sales.
During its first run, “Avatar” grossed $2.78 billion worldwide. It added additional ticket sales over the years through re-releases and reclaimed the box office crown of “Avengers: Endgame” in 2021 when it redistributed in China, surpassing $2.84 billion.
The majority of tickets sold for the film were for 3D screenings, which tend to be more expensive than regular tickets. These premium tickets, along with an extended nine-month theatrical run, helped bolster “Avatar’s” overall box office.
“We know that IMAX and other [premium format] screens are a major driver for the company now and in the future, but the popularity of 3D in North America has rapidly declined in the years since the original release of the first ‘Avatar’,” said Robbins: “With very few exceptions, 3D has simply begun to turn off many moviegoers for a variety of reasons, some of which can be controlled by filmmakers, but not all.”
This “3D gold rush” in the wake of “Avatar”, as Dergarabedian calls it, has led to an oversaturation of the market. Many 3D releases were conversions of films that were not well suited to the format, and as a result quality declined, as did audience interest.
While 3D movies have fallen out of favor with domestic audiences, they remain exceptionally popular internationally, particularly in China. Indeed, “Avatar” made most of its money outside of the United States – a whopping $2.08 billion.
“If I read between the lines of this distribution plan, it appears that Disney and 20th Century Studios are assessing the state of 3D’s brand image and they may use the box office results to inform how” The Way of Water “is managed,” Robbins said. “While Cameron wants to push the 3D version for fans who want to see it as he filmed it, it’s also hard to ignore the huge audience who never became as enamored with the format as they did. made with other 2D premium display options.”
Current estimates for the film’s re-release range from $7 million to $12 million, with box office analysts saying a mid-teen figure would be “huge”. It also faces fierce competition from historical action epic ‘The Woman King’, which had a strong opening last weekend and could be set for a long and successful box office run. .
“It would be a massive understatement to say there’s a lot to do on the ‘Avatar’ brand and with at least three more filmed episodes underway,” Dergarabedian said. “The re-release of the original this weekend will be the keystone of what the future holds for the Pandora universe and beyond.”