Box Office: ‘Avatar 2’ Rocks New Year’s Weekend, No Champagne for ‘Babylon’ and Other Holiday Films

Avatar: The Way of Water will ring in 2023 in style.

James Cameron’s tentpole is expected to finish New Year’s weekend with more than $440 million domestically, well ahead of the first Avatar, which came out of the year-end holidays with $352 million on its way to earning north of $750 million domestically (that includes rereleases). The 2009 film still ranks as the top-grossing movie of all time globally with $2.92 billion in ticket sales.

Avatar: The Way of Water sprinted past the $1.1 billion mark earlier this week at the worldwide box office.

For the four-day New Year’s weekend, The Way of Water is on course to gross $92 million in North America, a tidy sum. The 20th Century and Disney film is doing far more business than any other year-end release in what’s been a bummer for other Hollywood studios.

This puts overall domestic revenue for 2022 at roughly $7.4 billion, 68 percent ahead of 2021 but 38 percent down from 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Comscore.

The next closest New Year’s performer is DreamWorks Animation and Universal’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which is looking at a four-day gross of $21.2 million for muted domestic tally of $65.6 million or more.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has remained a major force and will come in No. 3 over the long New Year’s weekend with an estimated $6.2 million. That will push the Marvel pic’s domestic cume to $439 million.

Whitney: Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Babylon are expected to follow with muted $4.6 million and $3.1 million, respectively. Both films opened Dec. 23, two days after Puss in Boots 2 (Avatar 2 opened Dec. 16).

TriStar’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody, which cost $45 million to make before marketing, should finish Monday with a tepid domestic total of $15.2 million.

From Paramount, Damien Chazelle’s Babylon is an even bigger disappointment, having cost $78 million to produce before marketing. The movie, which will no doubt lose millions, is looking at a domestic cume of $11 million through Monday.

There are no new wide releases over New Year’s weekend.

At the specialty box office, Tom Hanks-starred A Man Called Otto is opening in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The Sony film should post a relatively pleasing location average of $18,000 over the four-day holiday weekend.

Among other specialty releases, The Whale expanded into more than 600 theaters. The movie should place No. 7 this weekend with $2.2 million for a domestic total of $6.6 million.

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