It was always believed that James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water would make big money at the box office, even if the sequel came 10+ years later. Initial reports had the film at a $500 million+ worldwide opening. On the first day of its release, Variety notes that the sequel got around $17 million – not too bad for Thursday afternoon/night previews. $2.63 million came from Imax 3D screenings. While it’s impressive, domestically, the film might come up short of Marvel's opening weekend grosses from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ($185 million opening weekend) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ($181 million).
From an international standpoint, the film made $50.4 million from international ticket sales. In China, opening day sales are expected to hit $18.5 million. Remember that 2009’s Avatar had a slower start at a $77 million opening. However, because of the immensely positive word-of-mouth, Avatar became the highest-grossing film of all time at $2.92 billion.
Will the sequel reach those heights? We’ll see. The landscape has considerably changed with streaming and people electing to wait until films hit a particular service. However, the visual aspects of the film might entice people to see the film during the Christmas break.