“Avatar: The Way of Water” claimed the No. 1 spot on the domestic box office charts for the seventh weekend in a row with an additional $15.7 million, according to studio estimates on Sunday.
It was a quiet weekend overall, notable mostly for the Hindi language blockbuster “Pathaan” that broke into the top five and the post-Oscar nominations rereleases of films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “The Fabelmans.”
“Avatar 2’s” first-place North American run has only been matched by the first “Avatar,” and, in the past 25 years, bested by “Titanic” (which stayed in first place for 15 weeks). All three were directed by James Cameron.
Globally, “The Way of Water” has now grossed an estimated $2.1 billion, passing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens," to become the fourth-highest grossing film of all time (of which Cameron has directed three).
“James Cameron just keeps ticking off all the records and milestones,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “And it's still got a wide-open marketplace.”
Second place went to Universal and DreamWorks’ family-oriented offering “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish,” which made $10.6 million in its sixth weekend. The animated spinoff has earned over $140.8 million in North America and was recently made available to stream at home, too.
Third place went to Sony's “A Man Called Otto" with $6.8 million from 3,957 locations. The meme-able horror “M3GAN,” a Universal release, snuck into fourth place with $6.4 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic total to $82.3 million.
The Indian film “Pathaan,” starring Shah Rukh Kha in his first role in five years, settled in fifth place with $5.9 million from only 695 screens.
“A top five appearance is really impressive,” Dergarabedian said, noting that the marketplace over the past several years has presented opportunities for Indian films to break into the domestic top 10.
Neon also launched the horror movie “Infinity Pool,” written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg and starring Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård, in 1,853 locations following its Sundance debut. It made an estimated $2.7 million. The romantic comedy “Maybe I Do,” with Diane Keaton, Richard Gere and Susan Sarandan, made $562,000 from 465 screens. And Lukas Dhont’s Cannes-winning boyhood drama “Close” opened on four screens in New York and Los Angeles, earning $68,143.
Many studios boasting best picture nominees also chose to capitalize on the buzz of Tuesday’s Oscar nominations with sizable re-releases. “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which got a leading 11 nominations, came back to theaters in force playing on 1,400 screens where it earned another $1 million. The A24 release has made $71 million domestically to date. Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” nominated for seven Oscars, also expanded to 1,962 screens in North America and took in an additional $760,000, bringing its domestic total to $16 million. And Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” also added a few hundred screens, earning $1 million over the weekend. It’s made $2.4 million to date. The Oscar boosts could continue over the coming weeks, too — the show isn't until March 12.
“We are seeing in real time the halo effect of the Oscar nominations on these best picture nominees,” Dergarbedian said. “The Oscar bounce is back, something we haven’t seen over the past couple of years.”
Several of the highest profile releases of the weekend were both star-driven comedies that went straight to streaming: Netflix had “You People,” with Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jonah Hill and Lauren London and Amazon Prime Video offered “Shotgun Wedding,” with Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Coolidge.
Seven weekends into “Avatar 2,” theater owners are also likely looking for the next big blockbuster, which is still a ways off. “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” doesn’t arrive in theaters until Feb. 17.
But, as Dergarabedian said, “2023 is already looking more like 2019 rather than the last three years."
“This is great news for theaters,” he said. "You have the Oscar bounce in play, an Indian film in the top 5 and ‘Avatar’ breaking records left and right.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore, with Wednesday through Sunday in parentheses. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” $15.7 million.
2. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” $10.6 million.
3. “A Man Called Otto,” $6.8 million,
4. “M3GAN,” $6.4 million.
5. “Pathaan,” $5.9 million.
6. “Missing,” $3.8 million.
7. “Plane,” $3.8 million.
8. “Infinity Pool,” $2.7 million.
9. “Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist,” $2.4 million.
10. “The Wandering Earth 2,” $1.4 million.