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Avatar 2's Box Office Will Be Disappointing (Even If It's A Massive Success)

Imagine what it takes to get a major Hollywood studio to virtually give you the pin code to their massive savings account, for you to have whatever funds you need to make just one movie. Well, that is pretty much the situation James Cameron found himself in when it came to developing the upcoming "Avatar: The Way of Water." Of course, this doesn't even include the money he needs to make parts three, four, and five.

This seemingly unlimited budget is what you get when you write/direct/produce the highest-grossing film of all time, which is what Cameron accomplished with his first installment of the sci-fi epic tale, "Avatar." However, this time around, it may be the studio's absence of budget restriction, combined with other factors, that may ultimately lead to an upcoming box office disappointment for the sequel, even if it ends up being a massive success.

Of course, the original film's success isn't the only reason that studios only use the word "yes" when answering Cameron's budget requests. The Canadian-born filmmaker provided truckloads of cash for Hollywood's bank accounts with blockbusters like "Terminator 2." And even with cash cows like "Aliens," "The Abyss," and "True Lies," one cannot forget the fact that Cameron's "Titanic" also holds the number three spot of all-time box office profits, as well. However, fast forward to the state of box office numbers today, and it's pretty clear that these types of moviemaking success stories may no longer be possible.

Post-Covid had been bad for box office profits

When comparing what life was like pre-pandemic, compared to now, the differences are truly incalculable. That is unless you are looking at financial numbers. Back in 2020, when the pandemic forced the majority of people to stay home to wait for the world to open up again, all different types of industries were forced to adjust their production tactics in order to stay afloat. One of those industries, of course, was Hollywood. 

With completed movies not yet released and theaters shut down, moviegoers collectively entered a new era of at-home, on-demand entertainment. This also gave people a new, comfortable option for fans to watch at home, pre- and post-pandemic. This sudden shift in customers' perceptions, even when theaters began to re-open, proved that Hollywood had a problem. In fact, many paying ticket-holders had more than one reason not to return. 

When the world's doors opened post-pandemic, there were plenty of people still not yet ready to step back into the public. The fact that Covid is still part of our lives was enough to keep many people at home. Then there is another portion of moviegoers who have gotten used to, and may now prefer, to watch new movies from the comfort of their living rooms. This combination resulted in, according to Variety, box office sales in 2021 being down 81% compared to pre-pandemic. Though profits are slowly climbing back, especially this past summer (via BisNow), studios are still seeing numbers much lower than they once were. This could be one of the reasons why "Avatar: The Way of Water" may be destined for box office disappointment.

Even a successful Avatar 2 is destined for failure

It's hard to blame 20th Century Studios for giving James Cameron the reported budget of over $250 million to make "Avatar: The Way of Water," especially when the first film still holds the title of the highest-grossing movie in history. But there are multiple factors why an upcoming box office disappointment is such a good bet. Even Cameron himself told GQ that the studio's green light of the sequel was "The worst business case in movie history." He continued about the chances the movie will make a profit by explaining, "You have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That's your threshold. That's your break even." That, along with previously mentioned factors, makes turning a profit seem as difficult to acquire as Unobtainium.

In addition to all that going against the sci-fi sequel's possible financial success, another blow may come from how long it's been since the first film. It's been 13 years since we saw the gorgeous details of Pandora on the big screen, meaning there are plenty of paying customers out there who were in grade school or younger when it was released. So, the "out of sight, out of mind" factor may come into play, as well. Other films like "Tron," "Independence Day," and "Indiana Jones" have all proven that too long of separation from the original movie can result in an underwhelming performance at the box office. Hopefully for Cameron and 20th Century Studios, "Avatar 2" doesn't experience that same fate.