It’s no secret that Avatar: The Way of Water has been given a massive budget. Of course, no official figures have ever been communicated, but there are rumors of figures around two and a half billion kroner for production costs alone and when director James Cameron was asked by GQ Magazine about how expensive it is, the answer was only “very fucking.” No one doubts that the budget is extremely high, and it is clear that a film so technically advanced costs a lot of money to throw together and it is also in line with what the audience expects from a sequel to the success. Three hours of playing time and special effects that will make us swoon in the cinema armchair, but it also comes with a different kind of price.
In order for this to work, Avatar: The Way of Water needs to be one of the highest-grossing films of all time and gross over SEK 20 billion. Specifically, it needs to be in the top five of all time. If it lands in place three to four, you break even, and that knowledge can of course be a heavy yoke to bear. Another imminent risk with this lousy business model, as James himself puts it, is the plan to launch additional Avatar films, which will be five in number. If this and Avatar 3, which is already scheduled for release in 2024, do not collect the money, it will stop at a trilogy. In Cameron’s own words:
“It’s the worst business case in movie history. You have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your threshold. That’s your break even.”
Now Cameron has history on his side as both the predecessor and Titanic are high on the list, first and third but in a different climate, where streaming has taken hold as a real threat to cinemas and also in a supposed recession, nothing is a given. On the other hand, the changed conditions have shown that it is mammoth films that still attract the audience to the cinemas and if there is a film that qualifies on those premises, it is Avatar: The Way of Water. The films that Cameron has to pass to end up in third and fourth place are, as I said, his own long-running Titanic or Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
What do you think, does he do it?