It's no secret that Avatar: The Way of Water has received a massive budget. No official figures have ever been communicated, but there are rumours of around $250 million dollars for production costs alone, and when director James Cameron was asked by GQ Magazine how expensive it is, the answer was only "very fucking".
No one doubts that the budget is extremely high and it is clear that such a technically advanced film costs a lot of money to put together and it is also in line with what the audience expects from a sequel to the success. Three hours of running time and special effects that should make us swoon in the cinema chairs but it also comes with a different kind of price.
After all, for this to work, Avatar: The Way of Water needs to be one of the highest-grossing films of all time, grossing over $2 billion. Specifically, it needs to be the top five of all time. If it lands in third or fourth place, it breaks even, and that knowledge can be a heavy to bare. Another imminent risk with this lousy business model, as James himself puts it, is the plan to release additional Avatar films, which are to be five in number. If this and Avatar 3, already scheduled to premiere in 2024, don't make the money, we'll be stuck with 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 its predecessor and Titanic are high on the list, first and third but in a different climate, where streaming has established itself as a real threat to cinemas and also in a supposed recession, nothing is a given. On the other hand, the changing conditions have shown that it is great films that still attract audiences to cinemas and if there is one film that qualifies on that premise, it is surely Avatar: The Way of Water. The films that Cameron has to pass to come third and fourth are, as I said, his own long-running Titanic or Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
What do you think, can he do it?