James Cameron’s Avatar marked a sensational paradigm shift in box office numbers and longevity in the ever-evolving expansion of continuous brands/IPs for movies. Then, its status as box office king was temporarily usurped by Disney’s collection of the Stars Wars/Marvel Studios franchises, as the former astoundingly broke all domestic records with Force Awakens and the latter finally clutched Avatar‘s decade-standing worldwide gross with Avengers: Endgame. Granted, not all worked out for Lucasfilm, breaking their genre for a startling moment with The Rise of Skywalker‘s reception.
Marvel continued to hold down the fort and resumed doing so after the pandemic tore down original, prestige filmmaking and independent works in favor of hardened yet abstruse reliance on brands/IPs. And even after breaking $28 billion as a collective franchise, James Cameron still has a say in the matter. Undoubtedly, the thirteen-year gap gave the MCU all the juice it needed to build, sustain, and even progress further with its reputation. Still, Cameron’s return with the long-awaited Avatar: The Way of Water has box office philanthropists scratching their heads.
In its fourth weekend, the sequel should be around $1.67 to 1.7 billion worldwide and about $515 domestically. With the winter legs, it should end its overall run with $700 million domestically and $2.2-2.4 billion worldwide. $2.5 billion might be a bridge it’ll have to reach, but if it legs like Black Panther and Force Awakens, it remains a sizeable plausibility. Remember that this is the sequel to its predecessor, the returning box office king, and it has a mark to reach to succor Cameron’s continuation with the Avatar IP. Now that he has gone on record and claimed it had done enough business to warrant more, will the subsequent three sequels bring the same success?
The future remains untold, but there is a chance that Cameron’s involvement with the following three chapters could replicate such measures (even if no dispatch of Avatar‘s earnings). Hypothetically, suppose the follow-ups all earn at least $1.5-2 billion each. In that case, Cameron will further entrench his status as the highest-grossing director in history, surpassing the Russo Brothers, Joss Whedon, and Colin Trevorrow. He already has three blockbusters over $1.5 billion, created some of the best sequels in history (Aliens, Terminator 2), and is poised to remain atop the mountain for generations to come.
Meanwhile, Marvel is cranking out multiple works each year to add to its colossal empire, and two more Avengers works (in 2025 and 2026) will do wonders for their repertoire. However, Cameron has that distinction of holding their number once Avatar got further re-releases and took back its seat. The sequel will promptly pass Infinity War‘s earnings to put it in the top five highest-earning films. If two, soon be five films, can earn higher achievements than a combined (supposedly) fifty, that speaks volumes to Cameron’s stature. Evidently, there’s no chance Cameron’s works can attain more than the combined of the MCU, but he has some elements of the table to play with audiences’ expectations for the upcoming five years. The Mouse House also acquired the rights to the blue CGI brand in 2019, so they technically own all the top-five grossing films in film history.
At the end of the day, the veracious sentiment is that Disney will continue to grow further with more Marvel and Avatar gargantuan projects, meaning that other studios have to step up their games to remain in the fold. As long as he’s onboard, Cameron will continue bringing more to the party with the succeeding slate of Avatar features.