'Avatar: The Way of Water' sails in the Christmas box office, while Brad Pitt's 'Babylon' encounters rough seas. - News Certain Network

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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ sails in the Christmas box office, while Brad Pitt’s ‘Babylon’ encounters rough seas.

“Avatar: The Way of Water” sailed to the top of the box office in its second weekend, grossing what studios estimate to be a strong $56 million in North America on Sunday — a sign that the sequel may stay afloat into the new year and approach the massive expectations that greeted its release.

James Cameron’s digital extravaganza for 20th Century Studios grossed $253.7 million in its first ten days of release, compared to $212.7 million in the same period for the first “Avatar,” which went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

While Cameron’s films, such as the original “Avatar” and “Titanic,” have strong box office legs, sequels tend to open big and fade quickly, complicating predictions about where the film will end up. Given the way blockbusters open, its second-weekend drop from $134 million in the first was not dramatic.

“This is James Cameron’s first $100 million opening,” Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “The fact that this film opened so big and only dropped 58% shows that it has staying power.”

“The Way of Water” is already the third highest-grossing film released in 2022, grossing $855 million — trailing only “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World Dominion” — and is expected to gross more than $1 billion.

Looking ahead, the film has more holiday time and no comparable competition until February, when Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is released.

Storms across the United States, on the other hand, may keep people at home.

“The weather is Avatar’s biggest foe right now,” Dergarabedian explained.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” an animated Shrek spinoff starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, finished a distant second with $11.35 million in its opening weekend.

With $5.3 million, Sony’s biopic “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came in third place.

“Babylon,” the epic of early Hollywood directed by Damian Chazelle and starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, was the weekend’s biggest letdown. It earned only $3.5 million in a nationwide release, placing fourth.

The tepid $6.5 million opening weekend of director David O. Russell’s “Amsterdam” in October, another film set in a similar period that combined prestige, scope, star power, and a celebrated auteur, raised industry concerns that audiences weren’t flocking to theatres for such films.

The fears were justified, as “Babylon” only lasted about half as long as “Amsterdam.”

The coming weeks in theatres, streaming showings, and any nominations could help “Babylon” rise above the level of a bomb.

“I would say Babylon isn’t about the opening weekend,” Dergarabedian said. “We’ll have to see how it performs in the coming weeks and into the new year, especially if it generates more awards buzz.”

Comscore estimates ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at US and Canadian theatres, with Wednesday through Sunday in parentheses. The final domestic data will be released on Monday.

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