James Cameron, the director of Avatar: The Way of Water, has revealed that the impending sequel will need to be the “third or fourth highest-grossing film in history” to make a profit.
Cameron recently told GQ that The Way of Water was “extremely f***ing” costly to film, though he didn’t provide an actual figure to back up or contradict allegations that the production budget was about $250 million. He did, however, call the film “the worst business case in movie history,” before revealing that the long-awaited sequel would need to top the global box office charts just to break even.
“You have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history,” Cameron stated of the film’s profitability. “That is your limit. That is your break even point.”
The original Avatar film presently holds the #1 spot in the international box office with $2.9 billion. Avengers: Endgame comes in second with $2.7 billion, Titanic comes in third with $2.2 billion, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes in third with $2.07 billion. To make money, Cameron believes The Way of Water must overtake The Force Awakens and push it to the fifth spot, which is currently held by Avengers: Infinity War.
Cameron previously stated that the box office performance of The Way of Water and the yet-untitled Avatar 3 will ultimately determine whether the fourth and fifth Avatar films are made, telling Total Film: “The market could be telling us we’re done in three months, or we might be semi-done, meaning: ‘OK, let’s complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly,’ if it’s just not profitable.”
Cameron has been somewhat evasive about Avatar’s future after the third installment. Avatar: The Way of Water will be released in theaters on December 16, with Avatar 3 following in 2024. The other sequels are also planned, with Avatar 4 set for a December 2026 release and Avatar 5 set for December 2028 — though Cameron may not direct all of the upcoming sequels if they go ahead.