James Cameron’s latest film, Avatar: The Way of Water, had by far the highest opening weekend at the US box office, with a whopping $134 million, but it still needs a major push to eclipse the overall box office receipts of the first Avatar and Titanic. Avatar, which continues to hold the record, and Titanic, which is currently the third-highest grossing film of all time behind Avatar and Avengers: Endgame, are the only two films that Cameron has produced that cannot attribute their opening weekend box office to their overall box office performance.
Due to Cameron’s past box office wins, Avatar: The Way of Water‘s box office potential is a topic of intense debate. The movie’s budget makes it one of the most expensive movies in history, and Cameron says it’ll need to break box office records simply to turn a profit, but given the monstrous success of its predecessor, it’s reasonable to expect Avatar: The Way of Water to have the potential to hit similar highs, but it’ll take Cameron’s most unprecedented box office victory yet for Avatar: The Way of Water to surpass Titanic and Avatar.
James Cameron rocketed to fame thanks to The Terminator, which was highly profitable despite only earning $78.4 million at the global box office because it was made for a budget of just over $6 million. His budgets have gone up astronomically since, but so have his box office earnings, yet all of James Cameron’s movies have seen fairly low opening weekend numbers. Avatar: The Way of Water‘s $134 million is Cameron’s biggest opening weekend yet, out-earning The Terminator ($4 million), Aliens ($10 million), The Abyss ($9.3 million), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (31.8 million), True Lies ($25.9 million), Titanic, ($28.6 million), and Avatar ($77 million).
By traditional measures, Titanic and Avatar did not reach the top of the all-time box office charts. Cameron’s biggest films had the two lowest opening weekends among the other top 10 all-time box office performers, each earning $28.6 million and $77 million domestically. For comparison, Furious 7 opened to $147.1 million, or nearly twice as much as Avatar, making it the next greatest opening weekend box office on the list. As a result, if Avatar: The Way of Water is added to the list, its $134 million debut would uphold the current pattern and give Cameron the three worst opening weekends ever.
The fact that Titanic and Avatar opened so much lower than the other movies in the top 10, yet both retained ranks at the top of the list for so long is only possible because of long-tail performance unlike anything else seen with other top box office earners. The movie with the lowest second-weekend drop (excluding Cameron’s movies) is Star Wars: The Force Awakens with an impressive 39.8 percent decline.
Meanwhile, Avatar only dropped 1.8 percent in its second weekend, while Titanic‘s second-weekend haul actually increased from its opening weekend by 23.8 percent. These numbers aren’t only unique among the top 10, but all movies. For comparison, Top Gun: Maverick also had abnormally strong legs and has climbed to the 11th highest-grossing movie of all time, and its second-weekend drop was 28.9 percent from a $126.7 million opening (just shy of Avatar: The Way of Water‘s 134 million).