The reign of 'Avatar' commences

Well, here we are…the launch of the new Avatar picture! Anyone see it yet? Thoughts? If so, please let us know how the crowd seemed about it.

Deadline is doing its usual dynamic weekend-box-office analysis:

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Seeing $55M Friday, $150M Opening Weekend – Deadline

As of now, the weekend estimate is for between $130 million and $150 million. That might be surprising…it certainly surprised me. I was thinking it would more approach Force Awakens and its own forceful debut of nearly $248 million back in 2015. But Deadline says - and I’ll briefly summarize, it’s worth a read - that it is all about runtime and appointment viewing…in other words, people want to see this when they are ready and when a good screen opens up (i.e., a solid, quality premium screen tied to presentation - IMax, whatever). The analysis expects this to behave like other blockbuster Christmas releases…to leg out over time.

If I recall correctly, the original Avatar opened with $77 million amid a snowstorm. There were similar conditions this weekend as well. Presumably, this will pick up over the next several weekends.

However, I will say this: that was new IP at the time, so no one really knew with what they were dealing. Now, we know, and heck, Cameron has been out everywhere talking this one up, almost arrogantly at times (which is fine, more power to him and my shareholder value!; he sometimes rubs me the wrong way and I get the impression he’s a bit of a bully from things I have read about him, but he really is articulate on the movie process and the business of movies, so some of his own analysis has been intriguing to me)…with all the qualifiers over at Deadline, I still have to say I am surprised this didn’t beat Awakens for its debut, or at least do something significantly over $200 million, say $220/$230 million. We still have SARS around, true, but Spider-Man last year showed that people are ready to come back to theaters…so did the Top Gun title. The opening for Spider-M was $260 million. Again, I get what Deadline is saying with the appointment viewing stuff, but…people won’t go see this in regular theaters maybe just to see the story and then see it again in a better format? Isn’t there an excitement around it? Didn’t people want t see my other examples in a good format?

My question is: did the original do so well because it was a surprise hit that kept building while this one may be more frontloaded than at first glance? I can honestly say, I am probably wrong even asking that. And I want to be. I’m not betting against Cameron. I just bring that up because that is honestly a thought that crossed my mind as I felt surprise at the figure. If you had asked me to guess the opening, I would have said, look at Awakens. Yet I was wrong. And probably will be again.

I will finish up by wondering aloud: how much money will we have to share with Cameron and any other legacy co-financer from when this was a Fox property? That’s the one disappointing thing about the project…besides those two financial elements, we probably have to pay some profit participation to the other stars in the movie. And does DIS own the merchandise rights outright? It’s not as fun watching the box office climb on this knowing we may have to give up a lot…

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