James Cameron’s ”The Way of Water“ continues the pattern of Hollywood blockbusters – but not Chinese tentpoles – struggling in the Middle Kingdom
With $661 million worldwide as of Thursday, and a possible end-of-weekend cume over/under $900 million global, Walt Disney and 20th Century Studios’ “Avatar: The Way of Water” is on its way to potentially becoming the year’s biggest global grosser. However, with just $80 million from China in eight days from a $57 million opening weekend (including a 78% drop on its second Friday), according to individuals with knowledge, James Cameron’s underwater 3-D epic is the latest big Hollywood movie to stumble in China. It’s also the latest Hollywood tentpole, think “Top Gun: Maverick” ($1.49 billion sans China) or “The Batman” (just $20 million out of $770 million from China), to earn top-tier global box office with almost no help from the Middle Kingdom.
There was an implicit hope that China might help make “Avatar 2” a hit there to continue the narrative that Hollywood could find fortune and glory in China. COVID-specific variables (which also included the lack of red carpet premieres and in-person promotion) may have been specific enough for “The Way of Water” to be considered an anomaly even as the movie ends up nowhere near the likes of “Avengers: Endgame” ($620 million in 2019), “The Fate of the Furious” ($390 million in 2017) or “Transformers: Age of Extinction” ($300 million in 2014).